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Another papal first: Pope has private audience with Salvation Army general

Another papal first: Pope has private audience with Salvation Army general December 15, 2014

salvation-army-bucket-1

Did he bring his red bucket?

Details from Vatican Radio:

In a first private audience in the Vatican with a Salvation Army general on Friday, Pope Francis said theological differences do not impede the witness of a shared love of God and neighbour. He also spoke of his first encounter, as a 4-year old, with Salvation Army officers which, he said, stirred in him a sense of ecumenical outreach beyond the teachings of the Catholic Church in that era.

Greeting warmly a delegation led by General André Cox, the Pope said Catholics and Salvationists, together with other Christians, recognise that those in need have a special place in God’s heart – so much so, that the Lord himself became poor for our sake. As a result, the Pope said, Catholics and Salvationists often meet at the same peripheries of society.

I pray, he concluded, that all of Christ’s disciples can contribute with the same conviction and dynamism that the Salvation Army demonstrates in its devoted and highly appreciated service. Founded by former Methodist minister William Booth in 1865 as the East London Christian Mission, the Salvation Army today numbers one and a half million members in 126 countries worldwide.

Greeting warmly a delegation led by General André Cox, the Pope said Catholics and Salvationists, together with other Christians, recognise that those in need have a special place in God’s heart – so much so, that the Lord himself became poor for our sake. As a result, the Pope said, Catholics and Salvationists often meet at the same peripheries of society.

I pray, he concluded, that all of Christ’s disciples can contribute with the same conviction and dynamism that the Salvation Army demonstrates in its devoted and highly appreciated service. Founded by former Methodist minister William Booth in 1865 as the East London Christian Mission, the Salvation Army today numbers one and a half million members in 126 countries worldwide.

Just after the papal audience, I talked to General André Cox to find out more about the meeting and about the message of closer cooperation he was bringing here to the Vatican….

The Salvation Army leader told me he had asked for an audience because in recent years there have been “some pretty intensive and helpful and useful discussions” between Catholics and Salvationists, culminating in the publication of a book on the joint discussions. These talks, he said, have revealed “so many points of faith that connect us together, but also our passion and commitment for social justice and work among the poor.”

The audience, he continued, was an opportunity to present the book to the Pope and to express thanks and prayer support for him “since many of the things he’s been expressing really resonate with the heart of Salvationists around the world.” Given the growing mutual understanding and respect, General Cox said he told the Pope his organisation was seeking “practical ways to support each other and also align our message as we speak to the world on these issues.”

Describing Pope Francis as “a peoples’ person”, the Salvation Army leader said the pontiff spoke off-the-cuff to describe his memory of walking, as a four-year old, with his grandmother in Argentina and seeing two Salvation Army ladies in their distinctive hats and uniforms. Despite the prevailing Catholic view that Protestants “were destined to Hell”, Bergoglio’s grandmother told him they were “Protestants, but good people”, awakening in the young boy an opening to ecumenical encounter.

General Cox also looked ahead to next July when the Salvation Army will be celebrating the 150th anniversary of its foundation, gathering with representatives from across the globe at the O2 arena in London, just a couple of miles away from where the East London Christian Mission was first founded.

Read the pope’s remarks at the link. 


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