Pope Francis, Pentecostals and Interreligious Action
“I was responsible for Charismatic Renewal in Argentina and that’ why I love them very much.”
– Message of Pope Francis to Rimini Charismatic Assembly, April 27, 2013
Cardinal Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, states in his newly-released book On Heaven and Earth that he happily allowed Protestant Pastors to pray over him at a huge Charismatic Conference. He further says he is baffled as to why anyone would find this objectionable.
On Heaven and Earth is a joint production of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio and Rabbi Abraham Skorka. It is a book of conversations between the two men first released in Spanish in 2010, and now published in English.
In this book we encounter Cardinal Bergoglio in his own words. He appears to have a warm heart, a number of good Catholic instincts, but also shows himself immersed in the new ecumenical orientation of Vatican II. The Council’s pan-religious program is central to his thinking. His commitment to Pentecostalism is one such instance.
The Joint “Blessing”
On June 19, 2009, the Third Annual Fraternal Encounter of Evangelicals and Catholics was held in Luna Park stadium, Buenos Aires. Cardinal Bergoglio attended.
At one point, as is characteristic in these Pentecostal gatherings, the Cardinal dropped to his knees on stage to receive the “blessing” from the well-known Charismatic Father Raniero Cantalamessa O.F.M. and a number of Protestant pastors.
Some well-meaning Catholics tried to argue that Bergoglio must have only intended to receive a blessing from the Catholic priest, and the Protestants jumped in as a surprise to the Cardinal. As I noted in the April CFN, I do not see how this could be the case. Long time readers know I have attended many riotous Charismatic gatherings as an observer. These pan-Christian joint-blessings are standard procedure at Charismatic assemblies. Also, Pentecostalism has been rampant in South America since the late-1960s, so it was unlikely the Cardinal of Buenos Aries was unaware of these ‘joint blessings” before participating in the 2009 event.
All speculation is put to rest on this point when we read page 220 of the newly released On Heaven and Earth. Cardinal Bergoglio states with pride that he knowingly permitted the joint blessing to take place.
The Cardinal says:
“The first time that the Evangelicals invited me to one of their meetings at Luna Park, the stadium was full. That day a Catholic priest [Father Cantalamessa] and an Evangelical Pastor spoke. They gave two talks each, interspersed with a break to eat some sandwiches at noon. At one point the Evangelical pastor asked that everyone pray for me and my ministry. He had asked me if I would accept that they would pray for me and I answered him that of course I would. When they prayed, the first thing that occurred to me was to kneel down, a very Catholic gesture, to receive their prayer and the blessing of the seven thousand people that were there. The next week, a magazine headline stated: ‘Buenos Aires, sede vacante. The Archbishop commits the sin of apostasy.’ For them, prayer together with others was apostasy. Even with an agnostic, with his doubt, we can look up together to find transcendence; each one praying according to his tradition. What’s the problem?”
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this story is not that the Cardinal accepted the ‘blessing’ from Protestants – though this is troubling enough – but that he appears to be genuinely mystified as to why anyone would find his actions objectionable.
This makes one wonder what sort of formation young Jorge Bergoglio received in those heady days after the Council just prior to his 1969 ordination.
We will deal with the centuries-old Catholic objections to such actions, but will first document Cardinal Bergoglio’s up-to-the-moment support of Pentecostalism.
Testimonials from Charismatics quickly emerge after Bergoglio was elected to the Papacy.
“He supported the Charismatic Movement”
Dr Vinson Synon, the well-known Protestant Pentecostal, recalls an encouraging visit he had with Cardinal Bergoglio in 2005 in Buenos Aires.
It was a meeting of the International Charismatic Consultation with people of all denominations. The purpose was to promote “dialogue” between Pentecostals and Catholics in Latin America.
Vinson Synan and his group met Cardinal Bergoglio in his palace. “He was very friendly indeed,” recounts Synon. “He supported the charismatic movement. What struck us most was when he beseeched us to pray for him. We gathered around and prayed fervently for him. Little did we know that he would someday be Pope.”
“Catholic” Charismatic Ralph Martin was jubilant at Cardinal Bergoglio’s election. He wrote on March 20:
“Many have asked if he [Pope Francis] is friendly towards the charismatic renewal and evangelization. He is. Several people have sent me photos of Pope Francis, while he was still Archbishop of Buenos Aires, asking a group of evangelical pastors to pray over him. In fact, a Pentecostal minister posted this picture on the web (see above), noting that Cardinal Bergoglio was very involved over the years in the annual dialogue between Catholics and Pentecostals as well as the retreats for priests and pastors that were organized before each meeting.” 
The March 14 Christianity Today wrote that Argentine Evangelicals were overjoyed at Bergoglio’s election:
“Bergoglio has played a central role in Argentina's CRECES (Renewal Communion of Catholics and Evangelicals in the Holy Spirit) movement over the past 10 years, and has strongly supported the Argentine [Protestant] Bible society.”
Juan Pablo Bongarrá, president of the Argentine Bible Society said of Bergoglio, “He has very good and friendly relations with leaders of other religions,” and noted that Bergoglio respects and promotes interfaith dialogue.
Bongarrá’s furthered celebrated Bergoglio as follows: “He [Bergoglio] mounted the platform and called for pastors to pray for him, He knelt in front of nearly 6,000 people and [Protestant leaders] laid hands and prayed. We evangelical leaders that know him are very happy with his election,”
On April 27, Pope Francis (formerly Cardinal Bergoglio), reiterated his commitment to Pentecostalism. According to Zenitnews, Archbishop Rino Fischella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, celebrated Mass at the Rimini Fair of the 36th National Assembly of Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Here, Archbishop Fisichella gave an unexpected surprise message to the 15,000 Charismatics who received it with enthusiasm.
“Before beginning this celebration,” Archbishop Fischella told the crowd, “I bring you a greeting. Before I left this morning, I was with Pope Francis, and I told him: ‘Holy Father, I have to leave soon. I’m going to Rimini where there are thousands upon thousands of the Charismatic Renewal: men, women and young people.’ With a great smile, the Pope said; ‘Tell them that I love them very much!’ Upon leaving the Holy Father, Archbishop Fisichella recounted, the Holy Father added: “Look, tell them that I love them very much because I was responsible for Charismatic Renewal in Argentina, and that’s why I love them very much’.”
Another instance of Cardinal Bergoglio’s ecumenical thinking is recounted by Gren Venables, Anglican Bishop of Argentina (and former archbishop of the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone). Venables recounts that while still in Argentina, Cardinbal Bergoglio “called me to have breakfast with him one morning and told me very clearly that the Ordinariate [created by the Catholic Church to accommodate alienated Anglicans] was quite unnecessary and that the Church needs us to be Anglicans.”
Cardinal Bergoglio’s attitude echoes the ecumenical theology of Walter Cardinal Kasper who said in 2003, “Several aspects of being church are better realized in other churches. Therefore, ecumenism is no one-way street, but a reciprocal learning process, or, as stated in Ut Unum Sint, an exchange of gifts. The way to unity is therefore not the return of others into the fold of the Catholic Church.” 
As noted in the April CFN, Pope Francis voiced unqualified admiration of Cardinal Walter Kasper in his first Angelus Address, four days after his papal elevation. The new pope appeared to give a hint to his own ecumenical thinking and to the likely direction of his pontificate.
“What’s the Problem?”
Cardinal Bergoglio, as quoted earlier, seems puzzled as to why anyone would have a problem with him praying in public with Protestants or dropping to his knees to receive a joint blessing from both Catholic and Protestant ministers. “What’s the problem?” he wonders.
Does he really mean this? Is he really baffled as to why joint public prayers with Catholics and Protestants would be considered scandalous? Is he not aware of the numerous papal pronouncements against religious indifferentism and ecumenical activities over the past 160 years?
It would make more sense if Bergoglio had said, “Yes, prior to Vatican II this would not have been permitted but due to the Council’s aggiornamento we now deem it legitimate.” No, not even a nod to the Church’s consistent teaching of the centuries. Only the thin question, “What’s the problem?”
It should be noted that if the Buenos Aires magazine called Bergoglio’s deed an act of apostasy, this in an inaccurate accusation. The Cardinal’s actions may be called scandalous, even perhaps heterodox, but not apostasy, since apostasy entails rejecting the Faith and Jesus Christ altogether – such as a Catholic who would convert to Islam or Judaism.
Here is the difficulty. Cardinal Bergoglio’s public prayer with Protestants, and his receiving a “blessing” from Protestant pastors, gives the impression of legitimizing Protestantism. Despite whatever good intentions Protestants may possess, their belief system, which rejects bedrock truths of the Catholic Faith, stands condemned by the infallible Council of Trent.
The Council of Trent solemnly anathematizes those who reject the Catholic doctrine of the Eucharist, the Catholic doctrine on the Sacrament of Confession, the Catholic doctrine on the Sacrament of Holy Orders, the list goes on and on. Bergoglio’s actions effectively tell Protestants that the Council of Trent does not matter.
The Popes up to 1958 forcefully condemned ecumenical and interreligious activity. Pope Pius XI, in his 1928 EncyclicalMortalium Animos, forbade the type of ecumenism nurtured since the Council. He said the Holy See has “never allowed” its subjects to take part in the ecumenical assemblies, “nor is it lawful for Catholics to support or work for such (ecumenical) enterprises, for if they do so they will be giving countenance to a false Christianity, quite alien to the one Church of Christ”.
“Unity can only arise,” he continued, “from one teaching authority, one law of belief, one faith of Christians” and reiterated the truth that the only true unity can be that of the return of non-Catholics to the one true Church of Christ.
Pius rightly warned that these ecumenical enterprises are full of “fair and alluring words that cloak a most serious error, subversive to the Catholic Faith”.
Likewise, Pope Pius XII warned in his 1949 Instruction on the Ecumenical Movement, “True reunion can only come about by the return of dissidents to the one true Church of Christ (the Catholic Church).” 
These papal condemnations are not simply a matter of discipline, but are based on the nature of truth itself. Ecumenism is a counterfeit union with Catholics and counterfeit creeds. It gives the stamp of approval to the most prevalent error of the day: that any religion is good enough for salvation.
Thus Catholic leaders – be they priests, bishops, cardinal or even popes – must not give the visual expression of indifferentism that ecumenical activities necessarily transmit. No matter what pseudo-theological qualifications that modern Churchmen attempt (i.e., “we do not pray together but have come together to pray”), we all know that it is theimage that counts.
Advertisers are well aware of this fact. The advertising agency does not present an abstract description of the latest Ford Mustang, but televises the image. The viewer sees the latest Mustang speeding down the highway. It is the image that sells; it is the image that sends the message. And the image transmitted by Cardinal Bergoglio, by “Catholic Pentecostalism” and by “Catholic ecumenism” is that all religions are on the same footing and any religion is good enough for salvation. The image of Catholic leaders praying in public with members of false creeds sends its own signal, and it is not a Catholic signal. No matter what are anyone’s subjective intentions, the image from these ecumenical encounters promotes indifferentism. This is one of the many reasons why the Popes prior to Vatican II did not participate in such interfaith activity and forbade Catholics to participate as well.
Catholic participation in modern ecumenism also sends a false message to non-Catholics, effectively telling them they are attached to a legitimate creed and need not convert to the Catholic Church for salvation. As early as 1959, the eminent Thomist theologian Father Edward Hanahoe warned that modern ecumenism “has the effect of perpetuating the state of separation, serving rather to keep people out of Church [rather] than to bring them into it.”
“This Most Deplorable Error”
The Popes throughout the centuries, and especially since the time of the French Revolution, condemned any activity that places the Catholic Church on equal footing with false religions. This is one of the many reasons for the Papal condemnations of Freemasonry. Pope Leo XII taught:
“A certain sect, certainly known to you, [Freemasonry] and wrongfully arrogating the name of philosophy for itself has stirred up from the ashes the disorganized collections of almost all the errors. ... it teaches that ample liberty has been granted by God to every man to join any sect or to adopt any opinion which may be pleasing to him according to his own private judgment, without any danger to his salvation ...”
Leo here notes that such a concept is contrary to the notion of truth itself:
“... it would be really impossible for the completely truthful God, who is Sovereign Truth itself, the best and most wise Provider, and Rewarder of the good, to approve of all sects that are teaching dogmas that are false and frequently opposed and contradictory to one another and to bestow eternal rewards upon the men who join these sects ...”
Yet the “deplorable error” condemned by the Popes — that a man may find salvation in any religion — receives the stamp of approval through the practice of ecumenism and interreligious dialogue.
In fact, religious indifferentism is a constitutive element of “Catholic Pentecostalism,” since the movement itself began in 1966 with Catholics receiving the “Baptism of the Spirit” from Protestant ministers (click here for article).
Pope Gregory XVI likewise condemned the error or religious indifferentism in his Mirari vos arbitramur:
“Now we come to another very fertile cause of the evils by which, we are sorry to see, the contemporary Church being afflicted. This is indifferentism, or that wicked opinion which has grown up on all sides through the deceit of evil men. According to this opinion, the eternal salvation of the soul can be attained by any kind of profession of faith, as long as a man’s morals are in line with the standard of justice and honesty. You must drive out from the people entrusted to your care this most deplorable error on a matter so obviously important and so completely clear. For, since the Apostle has warned that there is one God, one faith, one baptism, those who pretend that the way to [eternal] beatitude starts from any religion at all should be afraid and should seriously think over the fact that, according to the testimony of the Savior Himself, they are against Christ because they are not for Christ; and that they are miserably scattering because they are not gathering with Him; and that consequently, they are most certainly going to perish forever, unless they hold the Catholic faith and keep it whole and inviolate.”
Pope Gregory XVI here merely restates the essential truth contained in the 4th Century Athanasian Creed, thus demonstrating the continuity of Catholic truth throughout the ages. The Creed begins:
“Whosoever wishes to be saved must, first of all, hold the Catholic faith, which, unless a man shall have held it whole and inviolate, he will most certainly perish forever.”
“This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man shall have believed it faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved.”
We cannot avoid the fact that ecumenism promotes religious indifferentism. It defies Blessed Pope Pius IX who taught in his 1864 Syllabus that it is an error to believe that "Man may, in the observance of any religion whatever, find the way of eternal salvation, and arrive at eternal salvation.”
Cardinal Mercier, faithful to perennial Church teaching and citing a line of Popes, denounced this latitudinarianism as blasphemy. He warned that to "put the religion of divine origin on the same level with the religions invented by men" is the "blasphemy which calls down God's chastisements on society far more than the sins of individuals and families."
Today’s ecumenism also places the salvation of millions of souls in jeopardy, since influential members of one true Church, the only ark of salvation, now give the impression by their words and deeds that non-Catholics may find salvation in the falsehood of their man-made, Protestant creeds.
Most disturbing: modern Popes and prelates committed to ecumenical activity are careful not to teach the above-mentioned truths to the Catholic Faithful. When have you heard a post-Conciliar Pope quote the condemnations of religious indifferentism from Leo XII, Greogry XVI and Blessed Pius XI? When have you heard a post-Conciliar Pope reiterate the solid condemnation of ecumenism found in Pope Pius XI’s 1928 Mortaliaum Animos or Pius XII’s 1949 “Instruction on Ecumenism”? In fact, these two documents – of Pius XI and Pius XII – were neither mentioned nor footnoted in Vatican II’s Decree on Ecumenism. It’s as if these magisterial texts do not exist. This is an inexcusable omission.
Due to this neglect, modern Catholics remain ignorant of a crucial component of their Catholic patrimony, and will come to regard opposition to modern ecumenism as un-Christian and inhuman.
The omission of Church leaders to reiterate the traditional papal condemnation of religious indifferentism results in generations of mal-formed Catholics. It also results in Church leaders who are “mixed bags” when it comes to the Faith: a combination of both good and bad elements. This was evident when reading Bergoglio-Skorka’a On Heaven and Earth.
Some Good Points
I mentioned that On Heaven and Earth is not all bad. It also contains quotes from Cardinal Bergoglio that indicate some good Catholic instincts.
For example, the Cardinal’s statement on abortion is encouraging, as he explains that abortion is not necessarily a religious issue, but an issue of science itself, a kind of natural law approach: “The moral problem with abortion is of a pre-religious nature,” says Bergholio, “because the genetics code of the person is present at the moment of conception. There is already a human being. I separate the issue of abortion from any religious concept. It is a scientific problem. To not allow further progress in the development of a human being is not ethical. The right to life is the first human right. Abortion is killing someone that cannot defend himself.”
Along these lines, Pope Francis recently reminded the bishops of Argentina they should be faithful to their 2007 “Aparecida Document” that restricts Holy Communion from pro-abortion Catholics, especially from pro-abortion Catholic legislatures, politicians and health professions.
We can only hope Pope Francis will eventually put some teeth into this recent statement, politely telling the episcopacy that any bishop who does not fulfill this duty will be replaced by a new diocesan Ordinary who will enforce the document. Bishops have ignored Vatican directives for decades. Without an actual threat of penalty to bishops who don’t comply, Pope Francis’ latest pronouncement, now giving hope to many, may end up as yet more words from the Vatican that ultimately go nowhere.
In On Heaven and Earth, Cardinal Bergoglio also made some good observations regarding the clerical scandals, saying that a priest found guilty of “pedophilia” should have his faculties taken away and be refused permission to exercise his priestly ministry again. He even criticized the Church in the United States whose bishops “move [corrupt] priests from one parish to another. That is stupid because, in a way, the priest carries his baggage with him”. Bergoglio stated his support for Pope Benedict’s ‘zero-tolerance’ policy. Time will tell how effective he will be in dealing with ongoing clerical problems in this area.
There is word Pope Francis intends to have his Pontificate consecrated to Our Lady of Fatima on May 13. This is encouraging. We can only pray that the consecration will have the effect of leading our Church leaders out of the post-Conciliar fever-swamp of religious indifferentism and other Conciliar novelties. However, it is best to celebrate this conversion away from Conciliar ideas after it happens and not before, lest we celebrate a conversion that never takes place.
For example, Cardinal Suenens, one of the most liberal prelates at the Council, nursed a devotion to the Blessed Mother. He broke ranks with his brother liberals at Vatican II when they wanted to play down the importance of Our Lady for the sake of ecumenical advances, telling them they could not discount Our Lady for ecumenical reasons. Yet he continued to his death as one of the most modernist prelates of the century.
In 1997, I attended the 30th Anniversary “Catholic” Charismatic conference in Pittsburgh where I saw Charismatic Patti Gallagher Mansfield delivered a fine lecture on Saint Louis DeMontfort’s True Devotion to Our Lady. Yet she remains an interfaith Charismatic without pause.
Pope John Paul II was devoted to Our Lady of Fatima, visited Fatima on numerous occasions and twice consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart. Yet he persisted on the disastrous interreligious path of the Council to his dying day.
Pope Francis is the first Pontiff to consecrate his pontificate the Madonna of Fatima. Indeed this can be a source of cautious hope. Our Lady is capable or working wonders, andcan even correct a Pope’s wayward footsteps. But in the meantime we must be prepared to resist the activities of any prelate – including Pope Francis – who continues the ecumenical program of the Council.
Bergoglio’s Interfaith “Te Deum” Masses
For despite the encouraging statements quoted above, Cardinal Bergoglio’s interreligious proclivity persists. He is not only committed to Pentecostalism, but to the pan-religious spirit of Assisi.
On pages 219-220 of On Heaven and Earth, Cardinal Bergoglio states with great satisfaction:
“When I began the Te Deum Masses as Archbishop, I came down with the nuncio accompanying the president and we walked to the door. All of you, representatives from other creeds, would remain in your place like puppets in an exhibition. I changed that tradition: now the president goes up and greets all the representatives of other creeds…. Since the Te Deum in Salta in 2009, the ceremony is divided in two: not only is the traditional, classic song performed, and the Eucharist, together with the homily and the Catholic prayer, but representatives of other creeds also present their own prayers. Now there is greater participation.”
Once again, these interreligious activities give visual expression to the greatest error of our age: the “most deplorable error” of religious indifferentism; the belief that any religion is good enough for salvation, and that one need not convert to Christ’s one true Catholic Church for salvation. This is one of the main reasons the Popes of the past had the good sense to declare such activities off limits to Catholics.
If Cardinal Bergoglio – now Pope Francis – continues on his ecumenical trajectory, we can expect Pentecostal, interreligious and “spirit of Assisi” activities to increase under his Pontificate with his encouragement. And when we object to this activities, we may only receive from Pope Francis the response, “People of different religions praying together? What’s the problem?”
Our Lady conqueror of all heresies, pray for us.
 On Heaven and Earth, Jorge Mario Bergoglio-Abraham Skorka, English translation [New York: Image, 2013], pp. 220-221
 “Argentine Evangelicals Say Bergoglio as Pope Francis Is ‘Answer to Our Prayers’“ Christianity Today, March 14, 2013.
 “Habemus Papam!”, Ralph Martin, Renewal Ministries website, March 20, 2013.
“Argentine Evangelicals Say Bergoglio as Pope Francis Is ‘Answer to Our Prayers’“ Christianity Today, March 14, 2013.
 “Pope to Catholic Charismatic Renewal: Tell Them I Love Them Very Much,” Zenit, April 30, 2013
 “Argentine Evangelicals…”, Christianity Today, March 14 How far removed is Cardinal Bergoglio’s attitude from the Catholic words of Blessed Pius IX who said to the Anglicans that he, “…earnestly beseeches from the God of mercies and Father of lights, that all of you at length, escaping from your severed, disinherited condition into the inheritance of Christ, the true Catholic Church, to which your forefathers belonged before the deplorable separation of the sixteenth century, may happily attain the root of charity in the bond of peace and fellowship of unity.” Quoted from Catholic Ecumenism, A Dissertation, Father Edward Francis Hanahoe, S.A., S.T.L, [Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 1953], pp. 98-99.
 “Current Problems in Ecumenical Theology”, Walter Cardinal Kasper, 2003 [date appears to be 2003,02,27], on Vatican webpage.
 Mortalium Animos, Encyclical on Fostering True Religions Unity, Pope Pius XI, January 6, 1928. [Emphasis added].
 Instructio (The Instruction from the Holy Office on the Ecumenical Movement, Dec. 20, 1949). Entire English translation published in The Tablet (London), March 4, 1950
 One Fold: Essays and Documents to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of the Chair of Unity Octave, 1908-1958. [Graymoor: Chair of Unity Apostolate, 1959], p. 121.
 Pope Leo XII, Ubi Primum, May 3, 1824. Quoted from “The Components of Liberal Catholicism”, Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton, The American Ecclesiastical Review, July, 1958.
 Pope Gregory XVI, Morari vos arbitramur, August 15, 1832. Quoted from Ibid.
 Syllabus of Errors, Pope Pius IX, #16.
 Pastoral Letterr of Cardinal Mercier, The Lesson of Events, 1918, cited from The Kingship of Christ and Organized Naturalism, Father Fahey, (Dublin: Regina Publication, 1943) p. 36.
 On Heaven and Earth, p. 107.
 Ibid., p. 51
 Juan Cardinal de Torquemada (1388-1468) was a revered medieval theologian responsible for the formulation of the doctrines that were defined at the Council of Florence. Cardinal Torquemada teaches: “Were the Pope to command anything against Holy Scriptures, or the articles of faith, or the truth of the sacraments, or the commands of the natural or divine law, he ought not to be obeyed, but in such commands he is to be disregarded. Citing the doctrine of Pope Innocent III, Cardinal Torquemada further teaches: “Thus it is that Pope Innocent III states (De Consuetudine) that it is necessary to obey the Pope in all things as long as he, himself, does not go against the universal customs of the Church, but should he go against the universal customs of the Church, “he need not be
followed ...” Sources: Summa de ecclesia (Venice: M. Tranmezium, 1561). Lib. II, c. 49, p. 163B. The English translation of this statement of Juan de Torquemada is found in Patrick Granfield, The Papacy in Transition (New York: Doubleday, 1980), p. 171. And in Father Paul Kramer, A Theological Vindication of Roman Catholic Traditionalism, 2nd ed. (Kerala, India), p. 29
 Ibid., pp 219-220. The English translation reads, “All of you, representatives from other faiths, would remain in your place like puppets in an exhibition… but representatives of other faiths also present their own prayers.” We changed the above quote to “creeds” for two reasons: first, as an old traditionalist Jesuit taught me decades ago, this is a misuse of he word ‘faith’. Referring to other religions and “other faiths” is remarkably sloppy terminology. Secondly, in the original Spanish (which I have on Kindle) we see the word credo or credos. The use of the word ‘faiths’ would seem to indicate a faulty translation.