In the wake of several gestures in recent months aimed at increasing ecumenical dialogue, especially with evangelicals, Pope Francis has told the World Evangelical Alliance: “We can learn so much from each other.”
The Holy Father made this statement this morning at the Vatican when receiving a delegation from this New York-based network of evangelical churches that is spread through 128 nations.
There are more than 100 international organizations in this alliance, which aims to give a voice to more than 400 million Evangelical Christians throughout the world.
Beginning his address, the Holy Father reminded those gathered that baptism is a “priceless gift from God, which we have in common.”
“Thanks to this gift, we no longer live a purely earthly existence; we now live in the power of the Spirit,” he said.
Acknowledging that since the beginning, there have been divisions among Christians and still conflicts and rivalries exist, he said such issues “weaken our ability to fulfill the Lord’s commandment to preach the Gospel to all peoples.”
Although he said these divisions “mar the beauty of the seamless robe of Christ,” he noted they “do not completely destroy the profound unity brought about by grace in all the baptized.”
Francis underscored that the effectiveness of the Christian message would “no doubt” be greater were Christians to overcome their divisions, and together celebrate the sacraments, spread the word of God, and bear witness to charity.
“In various countries Catholics and Evangelicals enjoy good relations and work together as brothers and sisters,” Francis said.
To this end, he noted the joint efforts of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Theological Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance have also opened up new horizons “by clarifying misunderstandings” and “by showing the way to overcoming prejudices.”
His hope, he said, is that these talks “may further inspire our common witness and our efforts to evangelize.”
“If we really believe in the abundantly free working of the Holy Spirit, we can learn so much from one another!” the Pope exclaimed.
The Pope clarified that it is not just about “being better informed about others,” but rather about “reaping what the Spirit has sown in them, which is also meant to be a gift for us.”
“I trust that the Holy Spirit, who inspires the Church to persevere in seeking new methods of evangelization,” Pope Francis concluded, “will usher in a new era of relations between Catholics and Evangelicals, so that the Lord’s will that the Gospel be brought to the ends of the earth may be more fully realized.”
On ZENIT’s Web page:
Full Translation: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-s-address-to-world-evangelical-alliance