This Protestant likes Pope Francis

This may seem odd coming from a lifelong Protestant but I like the new pope. The more I read about Jorge Mario Bergoglio Pope Francis the more I like him.

I grew up in the ’50s and ’60s when there was a lot of misunderstanding sometimes animosity between Protestants and Catholics.

There was an unwritten rule in many Protestant homes that teenagers should not date Catholics. (So I did; a sweet young student at Mercy Nursing School in Des Moines.) My buddy Joe, a devout cradle-Catholic, told me that his mother warned him frequently to stay away from the cute Baptist girl down the street.

As a teenager I began to question my church’s attitude toward Catholicism and read whatever I could get my hands on to learn more about the church. I came to the conclusion that whatever our differences are, they are not an excuse for animosity.

Early in my career I was in radio and invited Sister Lucy, principal of the local Catholic school, to be a guest on my daily talk show to discuss Catholic Education Week.

A few days later in my nearby hometown I was flagged down by a local resident. “I hear you had your sister on your program the other day,” he said.

My sisters were still school girls at the time. “No,” I responded, “neither of my sisters has been on my show.”

“Sure,” my acquaintance said, “you called her ‘Sister Lucy.'”

“Oh, that,” I said naively, “that was Sister Lucy from the Catholic school.”

He narrowed his eyes, furrowed his brow and said coldly, “She ain’t your sister.”

Now I understood what he was getting at.

“Yes, she is,” I replied. “She is my sister in Christ.”

They say that arguing with a fool is dangerous, so I said, “See ya,” and drove off.

Over the years I have discovered that I have much in common with sincere believers in many other denominations. I am an evangelical Christian (Baptist) and thank God for bringing into my life Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal and many other friends with whom I have had the joy of sharing our faith.

Christianity is not about the name on the door of the church but the name written on the heart of each sincere believer.

Do I disagree with my Catholic friends on some of their doctrines and practices? Of course; just as they disagree with some doctrines and practices I embrace.

Does the Roman Catholic Church have problems? Of course, as does every other Christian denomination. (Don’t think yours doesn’t.)

Instead of criticizing each other, we should be praying for each other.

Now, more about Pope Francis

First of all, I admire his humility. Over the years I have witnessed arrogance within church leadership from the local church on up in many different denominations and traditions. Cardinal Bergoglio has for years shown the spirit of humbleness that Jesus preached and lived.

I appreciate Pope Francis’ concern for the poor. More than 2,000 times in the Bible many times by Jesus himself were are told to help the poor. How often do you hear that preached in your church?

I appreciate the papal name Cardinal Bergoglio chose Pope Francis. He chose the name of St. Francis of Assisi.

We Protestants aren’t big on historical saints but I have long admired St. Francis. It has been written that no one in history was as dedicated to imitate the life and carry out the work of Christ in Christ’s own way as Francis. He lived his life to help the poor and care for nature.

Around the world, evangelical leaders have heralded the selection of Cardinal Bergoglio as the new pope. The Rev. Dr. Norberto Saracco, a prominent evangelical leader in Argentina, affirmed that Pope Francis is “known for having very good relationships with evangelicals and with leaders of other faiths”

I like religious leaders who build bridges instead of walls.

While we’re not on the same page on every issue this old Protestant likes the new pope. May God bless him and his work.