(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis returned to the southern Italian city of Caserta on Monday for a private visit to the Pentecostal community known as the Evangelical Church of Reconciliation. The Pope first met the founder of the community, Pastor Giovanni Traettino, during his time as archbishop of Buenos Aires and over the past year he has met and received groups of Pentecostals at his Santa Marta residence here in the Vatican.
Listen to Philippa Hitchen’s report:
After greeting the pastor and his family, Pope Francis was welcomed by over 200 Evangelicals who had travelled to Caserta from around Italy, as well as from the U.S. and South America.
"Carissimo Papa Francesco, amato fratello mio, la nostra gioia é grande……"
Calling the Pope, my beloved brother, Rev Traettino said the Evangelical community was deeply grateful for the visit which would have been unthinkable until very recently. Many Evangelicals, he said, pray daily for the Pope and see his election as the work of the Holy Spirit.
"….la Sua elezione al vescovo di Roma sia stato opera dello Spirito Santo…."
Pardon and reconciliation were the themes at the heart of the Pope’s words as, to loud applause he asked forgiveness for the words and actions of Catholics who have persecuted Pentecostals in the past.
"…..Chiedo perdono per quelli Cattolici che non hanno capito…."
All of us are sinners, the Pope stressed, but all of us must continue to walk boldly in the presence of Our Lord. Quoting from St Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, Pope Francis spoke of the diversity of the Body of Christ but he stressed that diversity is reconciled to unity through the action of the Holy Spirit.
"…….così la Chiesa é una nella diversità….."
Following the encounter, Pope Francis then had lunch with members of the Pentecostal community in Caserta and returned by helicopter to the Vatican later on Monday afternoon