Is Pope Francis an Evangelical, Charismatic Catholic? | Fr. Dwight Longenecker | CWR
Experts in Evangelical Christianity and the Charismatic Movement discuss the roots and focus of the Holy Father's ecumenical dialogue and interaction
Labels are most often used not only to define a person, but to deny the person. Once we slap a label on them it is easy to limit them to that label. That’s why I used to tease people by describing myself as an “Evangelical, Charismatic, Catholic.”
I used the label to defy labels. I also used the description because I genuinely valued all three streams of Christian tradition. I wanted to affirm the Evangelical’s missionary zeal and love of the Scriptures, the Charismatic’s warmth and personal experience of the Holy Spirit, and the strong rootedness of the Catholic tradition.
Not long ago a priest friend admitted to to me that Pope Francis was “an enigma”. Now, a year and half into his papacy, after watching and listening to the pope carefully I’m convinced that he is, at heart, an Evangelical, Charismatic Catholic. Breaking out of common Catholic categories, Francis has reached out to Evangelicals and Charismatics both within the Catholic Church and beyond.
His friendship with bishop Tony Palmer is a good example. Before his untimely death, Palmer was a leader in a new church movement which weaves together the zealous missionary spirit of the Evangelicals, active use of the charismatic gifts, a love for liturgy, and the apostolic succession. Through Palmer, Pope Francis reached out to charismatic evangelist Kenneth Copeland, preached in a Pentecostal church in Rome and welcomed Evangelical leaders for a breakfast time visit.
To assess my hunch that Pope Francis is an Evangelical, Charismatic Catholic, I spoke to two Catholic leaders in the Church who are experts in Evangelical Christianity and the charismatic movement.
Dr. Ralph Martin is a well-known author, theologian, and teacher. He holds degrees in theology from Notre Dame, Princeton and a the Angelicum. He is associate professor of Evangelization at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit and is the director of Catholic Renewal Ministries. Ralph worked with Pope Francis in this year’s world meeting of charismatic Catholics in Rome. I asked Ralph for the inside story on Pope Francis and the charismatic movement.
Fr. Longenecker: Pope Francis seems open to the Renewal Movement in the Catholic Church. What do you think he sees as the movements strengths and weaknesses? By reaching out to charismatics is he simply trying to stem the tide of Catholics converting to the Pentecostal/Charismatic Protestant churches?