Evangelical leader Luis Palau discusses his old friend and fellow Argentine native, Pope Francis, in a new interview at Christianity Today. A few excerpts that stood out to me:
He’s a very Bible-centered man, a very Jesus Christ-centered man. He’s more spiritual than he is administrative, although he’s going to have to exercise his administrative skills now! But personally, he is more known for his personal love for Christ. He’s really centered on Jesus and the Gospel, the pure Gospel.
We’ll see what the effects will be for international relationships and openness, because he’s not a manipulator. He’s a straightforward, straight-shooting person. He says what he thinks and he does it sincerely.
Although he’s gentle, he has strong moral convictions and he stands by them even if he has to confront the government. And he’s done it before. With the evangelical community, it was a very big day when we realized that he really was open, that he has great respect for Bible-believing Christians, and that he basically sides with them. … They work together. That takes courage. That takes respect. It takes conviction. So the leaders of the evangelical church in Argentina have a high regard for him, simply because of his personal lifestyle, his respect, his reaching out and spending time with them privately.
On Pope Francis’s concern for the poor and the youth of Argentina:
The fact that he is inclined toward the poor doesn’t mean he’s a revolutionary church leader. He does not engage in class warfare.… He is for the poor, he works for them … but it isn’t by exacerbating emotions or through the old liberation theology. It isn’t that at all in his case.
In our conversations through the years, he was always especially concerned for the young people…. His bias toward the poor is rightly being pushed heavily. But in personal conversations, my memory is more for the young people in Argentina, who simply have become secular. Every time we talked about the state of Christianity in the world, he would bring up secularization and the distancing of the church from the young generation. …
One day we were on the way to a campaign … and he and I met for a word of prayer and I asked for a word of counsel. He said, ‘Give those young people the gospel. … They need to hear the pure gospel.’
Pope Francis and Evangelicals
I think we’ll see a papacy that will make relations easier and lessen tensions. It doesn’t mean [evangelicals and Catholics] will agree on every angle; that should be said. He is the Roman Catholic pope, and there are issues that need to be talked about, prayed about, looked at the Bible about. … Those differences in doctrine are there, but when there’s a proper attitude toward one another and to the word of God, and you take it seriously, light comes from the Lord.
… There will be no confrontational style….He has proved it over and over in his term as the cardinal of Argentina. There was more building bridges and showing respect, knowing the differences, but majoring on what we can agree on: on the divinity of Jesus, his virgin birth, his resurrection, the second coming.
One day I said to him, ‘You seem to love the Bible a lot,’ and he said, ‘You know, my financial manager [for the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires] … is an evangelical Christian.’ I said, ‘Why would that be?’ And he said, ‘Well, I can trust him, and we spend hours reading the Bible and praying and drinking maté [an Argentine green tea].’ People do that with their friends, share and pass the mate, and every day when he was in town, which was often, after lunch he and his financial manager would sit together, read the Bible, pray, and drink maté. To me, he was making a point [about his relationship with evangelicals] by telling me that: trust and friendship.