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Pope Francis Makes Overtures to Charismatic Catholics

09-27-2015
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PHILADELPHIA -- Pope Francis is back at the Vatican Monday following his historic U.S. tour.

While he made waves in the political world - from the White House, to Congress, to the United Nations – he's also been making overtures to different faith groups, including evangelicals.

From the moment he arrived, every word, move, smile, and hand wave was captured and analyzed. Nothing Pope Francis said or did went unnoticed.

The same can't be said when it comes to what appears to be bold, but largely unreported gestures he's been making in religious circles.

Charismatic Catholics

While some of the pontiff's biggest supporters are Hispanic, proud of the Catholic Church's first pope from Latin America, he's also got a strong base among Charismatic Catholics.

"Our faith is alive. Jesus is alive and the Holy Spirit is here!" said Mary Cruz, who traveled 13 hours from Toronto, Canada, for mass at the Gathering of the Renewal.

"We're excited. It's a blessing to be around such an inspiration person," North Carolina resident Maricela Macias said.
    
With hands upraised, they sang in English, Spanish, and French, and prayed speaking in tongues – just like the early Church on the first Pentecost.
    
Originally, Pope Francis wasn't a fan of the Charismatic movement. But over time, Spirit-filled church leaders say he had a change of heart.

Pierluigi Molla, son of St. Gianna Beretta Molla, discusses the courageous decision his mother made to save the life of his baby sister in exchange for her own.

"What changed his mind or his heart was when he saw the fruits of the Charismatic renewal," Michelle Moran, of the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal, explained.
    
And that bore more fruit, opening the door for him to work with evangelicals in Argentina. Traditional Catholics disapproved.

"What Pope Francis did, particularly in his relationships with Pentecostals in Buenos Aires, was really quite a challenge to the church there," Moran told CBN News.

Breaking Catholic Doctrine?
    
Some accused the pontiff of breaking Catholic doctrine for praying with pastors at an evangelical prayer meeting.

"When the Pentecostals laid hands on him, that wasn't anything to do with what we might think of as a sacramental thing," Moran said. "I think it's part of Pope Francis's prophetic nature that he challenges the boundaries."

While Pope Francis is known for building bridges with evangelicals and Charismatic Catholics during his time in Argentina, he's shown no sign of letting that up as pope. In fact, he's invited Charismatic Catholics to the Vatican to celebrate Pentecost in 2017 for the fiftieth anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.

"The Renewal started in the Catholic Church with a group of college students at Duquesne University – in a sense sort of an Azusa Street in 1901, Topeka, Kansas, and then here in 1967 is the Duquesne weekend we call it," Johnny Bertucci, of the National Service Committtee, told CBN News.
    
Meanwhile, Pope Francis continues to push the envelope, recently meeting with prominent evangelical pastors such as Kenneth Copeland, James Robison, Joel Osteen -- and last week with the keynote speaker at the World Meeting of Families: Pastor Rick Warren.

Christine de Vollmer is a leader in the Catholic Church whose work promoting families has led her to build strong ties with evangelicals across Latin America and the United States.

"To see the Catholic Church really understand that these are our allies, that was beautiful. And Rick Warren was fabulous. He got more applause than anyone," de Vollmer said.
    
The reach across denominational lines extends to CBN, one of only two evangelical groups invited by the Vatican to take part at an exhibit featuring the animated series "Superbook" in Philadelphia.

"We have always longed to be an organization that works across the confessions of faith. We're so excited to see Superbook really as being at the forefront of our ecumenical work in a whole new generation of families," Justin Murff, CBN envoy to the Vatican, said.   
    
A thousand free DVDs of "The Last Supper" were handed out in just 20 minutes.

"These were priests, these were nuns, these were religious education teachers, teachers in public schools , who said, 'I want to give them to my kids' and took five, 10, 15 of them. So, it's amazing to see the impact that had and 'Superbook' is still having," Murf said.

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