The election of a new pope is a significant event to Protestants as well as Catholics around the world. According to a March 16 report by The New York Times, Pope Francis made a gesture toward interfaith relations today in his first meeting with members of the media.
Pope Francis shared some personal recollections with the journalists and others gathered there in the large public hall in St. Peter's Basilica. He also expressed an understanding of how very tired they must all be. He then blessed he crowd, Protestants and unbelievers included:
“Given that many of you do not belong to the Catholic Church, and others are not believers, I give this blessing from my heart, in silence, to each one of you, respecting the conscience of each one of you, but knowing that each one of you is a child of God, May God bless you.”
Protestants keep a close eye on the Vatican for several reasons, the main reason being quite unorthodox. These non-Catholic Christians may not readily admit that they rely on the Catholic Church to hold the line in defense of the main tenets of Christian morality while many Protestant denominations have abandoned their posts. So, the new pope, Pope Francis I, is met with approval and relief as he affirms his views on the sanctity of life and the sanctity of marriage.
During the past several years, Catholics and evangelical Christians have stood together as allies on political issues affecting family values. One example of this is the Obama Administration's attempt to force religious institutions to provide contraception and abortions through Obamacare even though it violates the basic beliefs of their faith.
Although many mainline Protestant denominations have maintained elements of high church worship, the opulence of the Papacy and the Vatican do not quite make sense to non-Catholics, especially evangelical Christians. However, this new pope has won their respect on the basis of his meager lifestyle as a Cardinal in Argentina.
As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was entitled to a beautiful residence and transportation in a chauffeur-driven vehicle. As a Jesuit, he denied himself these privileges to live in a simple apartment and ride the city bus. This part of his life story will endear him to those who frown on the pomp of the papacy.
Pope Francis I will likely be a successful advocate for interfaith relations with Protestants around the world.