(Vatican Radio) In a meeting on Thursday with a delegation from the World Evangelical Alliance, Pope Francis expressed his confidence that the Holy Spirit “can inaugurate a new stage in the relations between Catholics and Evangelicals—a stage that allows us to realize more fully the will of the Lord to bring the Gospel even to the furthest ends of the earth.”
Pope Francis spoke about the Sacrament of Baptism as “an inestimable divine gift” that all Christians have in common. “The Sacrament of Baptism reminds us of a fundamental and very consoling truth: that the Lord always goes before us with His love and His grace… The reign of God always precedes us, as does the mystery of the unity of the Church.”
The Holy Father frankly acknowledged the presence of divisions among Christians “from the beginning,” and noted that “rivalries and conflicts” continue between Christian communities. “Such situations,” he said, “weaken our capacity to fulfil the command of the Lord to preach the Gospel to all nations.” Christians would be able to better proclaim the Gospel if they could overcome their differences so that, together, they might spread the Word of God and witness to Christian charity.
Pope Francis said he was pleased to learn of efforts in various countries to build better relations between Catholic and Evangelicals. He pointed especially to the work of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Theological Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance. The Holy Father also expressed his hope that a joint document, “Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World: Recommendations for Conduct” might “become a motive of inspiration for the proclamation of the Gospel in multi-religious contexts.
Below, please find the full text of the Holy Father's address to the delegation:
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins that He might rescue us from the present evil age in accord with the will of our God and Father” (Gal 1:3-4). With these words, the Apostle Paul expresses our common faith, our common hope. I would like for this my greeting, which proclaims that Jesus Christ is Lord and Saviour, to also reach the members of your communities of origin.
In offering our whole will, with renewed love, to the service of the Gospel, we help the Church to become ever more, in Christ and with Christ, the fruitful life of the Lord “until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ” (Eph 4:13). This reality has its foundation in Baptism, through which we participate in the fruits of the death and resurrection of Christ. Baptism is an inestimable divine gift that we have in common (cf. Gal 3:27). Thanks to it, we no longer live solely in the earthly dimension, but in the power of the Spirit.
The Sacrament of Baptism reminds us of a fundamental and very consoling truth: that the Lord always goes before us with His love and His grace. It precedes our communities; it precedes, anticipates, and prepares the hearts of those who proclaim the Gospel and of those who welcome the Gospel of Salvation. “Reading the Scriptures also makes it clear that the Gospel is not merely about our personal relationship with God. Nor should our loving response to God be seen simply as an accumulation of small personal gestures to individuals in need… or a series of acts aimed solely at easing our conscience. The Gospel is about the kingdom of God (cf. Lk 4:43); it is about loving God who reigns in our world” (Ap. Exhort. Evangelii gaudium, 180). The reign of God always precedes us, as does the mystery of the unity of the Church.
From the beginning there were divisions among Christians, and even now unfortunately rivalries and conflicts remain between our communities. Such situations weaken our capacity to fulfil the command of the Lord to preach the Gospel to all nations (cf Mt 28:19-20). The reality of our divisions disfigures the beauty of the seamless garment of Christ but never completely destroys the profound unity generated by the grace in all the baptized (cf. Ec. Conc. Vat. II, Decr. Unitatis redintegratio, 13). The efficacy of the Christian announcement would certainly be greater if Christians would overcome their divisions and could celebrate together the Sacraments and together spread the Word of God and witness to charity.
I am pleased to learn that, in different countries in the world, Catholics and Evangelicals have established relations of brotherhood and collaboration. Furthermore, the joint efforts of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Theological Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance have opened new perspectives, clarifying misunderstandings, and showing ways to overcome prejudices. I hope that such consultations can ultimately inspire our common witness and our efforts as evangelizers: “If we really believe in the abundantly free working of the Holy Spirit, we can learn so much from one another! 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” (Ev. gaud., 246). I hope, too, that the document “Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World: Recommendations for Conduct” may become a motive of inspiration for the proclamation of the Gospel in multi-religious contexts.
Dear brothers and sisters, I am confident that the Holy Spirit, who inspires in the Church, with his mighty breath, the courage to persevere and event to seek new means of evangelization, can inaugurate a new stage in the relations between Catholics and Evangelicals—a stage that allows us to realize more fully the will of the Lord to bring the Gospel even to the furthest ends of the earth (cf. Acts 1:8). I assure you of my prayers for this, and I ask you also to pray for me and for my ministry. Thank you!