An Evangelical Visits the Vatican
It’s not every day I receive an invitation from the Vatican to accompany the Pope on a pilgrimage, so when one
came last year, I accepted.
Francis of Assisi (1181 to 1226) was
the founder of the Franciscans, an order
devoted to helping the poor. The current
Pope Benedict XVI invited Christian and
other religious leaders to join him for a
pilgrimage to Assisi, the place where the
Franciscans were founded.
It was a gracious invitation to pray
together for peace. A bus picked us up
at our hotel and, following wailing police sirens, we made our way quickly
through the maze of Rome’s traffic to a
waiting train in the Vatican. The speedy train
travelled north through
down through villages
as crowds gathered on
station platforms to offer
their best wishes, ending
at the spectacular hillside
Three hundred of
us gathered, first at the
Basilica of the Angel of
St. Mary for speeches. A
lunch was served by the
Franciscans, followed by
a time of personal prayer. We then walked up the hillside to a
service of singing and praise on the plaza
of the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi.
Designed by the Vatican to focus on
peace, the event reminded us of our role
Should we – as global evangelical
leaders – have even attended?
Let me answer in context: worldwide
there are some 2. 2 billion Christians.
Over one billion claim allegiance to the
Roman Catholic church, 500 million are
in churches linked to the World Council
of Churches (including the Orthodox),
and 600 million are evangelical, repre-
sented by the World Evangel-
to know who the
other players are.
arise, it is important
we know where
we can go
for help to
of my lessons from Rome:
The event honoured Evangelicals,
and gave a special place to Baptists and
Pentecostals. While other religious lead-
ers were respected and given time at the
podium, there was never a doubt we
gathered under the Trinitarian vision of
God, the deity of Jesus and the life and
work of the Spirit.
Everything changed when the Pope
entered the room. All eyes were on him.
What I found amazing was other faiths
(I should note Muslims were not represented by their senior leaders) would put
themselves under the canopy of Rome,
an acknowledgement that in the world
of religion, Rome is senior.
The quality of evangelical pastors in
Rome is remarkable. I left with no worries that our message and presence is in
any danger of compromise.
In this time of enormous change I’m
anchored by the Apostle Paul who noted
that as King David led, he “served his gen-
eration.” Today leads into tomorrow. As
we carefully work to get it right today, it
will be the foundation on which our next
generation will make lead. So when in
Rome, listen and learn. FT
brIan C. STILLer of Newmarket, Ont.,
is the global ambassador for The