Francis reached out to Evangelicals yesterday, turning his attention to a thriving Church that is becoming increasingly popular in Latin America
ANDREA TORNIELLI Taken from Vatican Insider
The sober words Pope Francis addressed to pastor Giovanni Traettino and the rest of Evangelical Pentecostal community in Caserta yesterday morning continued a path started by St. John Paul II on the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. On and in order to mark that occasion John Paul II was keen for the Church to ask for forgiveness for the mistakes made by Christians – and men of the Church –during the course of history, as a gesture of penitence. With this initiative – which cardinals did not agree with because they feared the Church would have to apologise for things that had no real historical basis – John Paul II wished to show that the Church was not afraid to recognize the betrayals, excesses, exploitation and violence that had been committed over the centuries in the name of the Christian God; behaviour that was not in the least bit Christian-like.
Pope Francis apologised to the Pentecostal community especially for what had gone on during the fascist period when Evangelical pastors were deported, churches destroyed and miniscule Evangelical movements were declared “harmful to the physical and mental identity of the [Italian] race.” Many clerics back then kept silent and some parish priests reported Evangelicals to the OVRA, the Italian fascist regime’s secret police. Laws and provisions were passed by Christians, by baptized people. Francis also wants the word “sect” to be used more carefully when referring to the various new branches of the Evangelical faith.
Although his friendship with Traettino was the catalyst for his visit to Caserta this weekend, Francis wanted to visit the Pentecostal community so that he could get to know it and the new Charismatic Christian movements better. These groups are winning over faithful fast, particularly in Latin American countries.
Although some Catholics, Pentecostals and Protestants opposed the Pope’s meeting with Pastor Traettino, considering it to be scandalous, Francis defied the reticence and resistance on their part, turning his attention to this 600-million-strong community of faithful – almost a third of the world’s over two billion Christians are Evangelicals and three quarters (800 million approx.) are Protestants – which cannot be ignored, Professor Massimo Introvigne said. The Evangelical Church is growing and is characterized by a vigorous missionary dynamism.