UMs welcome Pope Francis

By Heather Hahn and Amanda Bachus, United Methodist News Service…

United Methodists and other Methodists offered prayers and warm wishes to Pope Francis, the first pope from the Americas, who now will set the tone for the Roman Catholic Church’s ecumenical relations with other Christian traditions.

Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church selected Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, a 76-year-old Jesuit of Argentina, as the 266th pontiff on March 13.

“The first words of Pope Francis saying that the people of God and the Bishop from Rome will walk together in love are hopefully a sign for the ecumenical journey as well,” said Germany Area Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops.

“We, the people of The United Methodist Church, are ready to continue the journey with the Roman Catholic Church, praying for one another, staying in a respectful dialogue with one another, knowing of the differences but believing that Christ unites us.”

Thomas Kemper, who leads the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries and was for many years a missionary in Brazil, said he was “glad to see the shifting center of gravity for Christianity represented in the new pope being from Latin America.”

“Just having been to Brazil last week,” he added, “I see how much joy and pride this election will cause in that part of the world.”

Noted theologian Stanley Hauerwas, of UM-related Duke Divinity School, said it’s even more remarkable that the Catholic cardinals elected a Jesuit.

“That he’s a Jesuit says so much about his commitment to the poor,” Dr. Hauerwas said.

The Rev. Juan Gattinoni, an executive of United Methodist mission relations in Latin America for the Board of Global Ministries, works in Buenos Aires and knows the new pope personally.

Mr. Gattinoni noted that when a cardinal, Pope Francis was engaged in the distribution of Bibles and was the first to sign a proposal, approved by Argentina’s National Congress, to designate Sept. 30 as the country’s day to celebrate the Bible.

“He always, when any meeting finished, asks that the people pray for him,” Mr. Gattinoni said. “And, of course, the last words when he departed from Buenos Aires to the Vatican were, ‘pray for me.’”

Special Contributor to UMR

Special Contributor

This story was written by a special contributor to The United Methodist Reporter. You may send your article submissions to

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