By now, I expect many Christians have seen the surprising viral video of Pope Francis’ recent appeal for unity with Protestants, presented at a Kenneth Copeland conference of charismatic leaders this past January. Download this video | Download HD version
You can watch the message in the video below, interspersed with my “blow-by-blow” comments. (Make sure to watch the response at the end.)
This is not the first time the Catholic Church has made overtures for their “separated Protestant brethren” to return to the fold. What makes this appeal different is the directness and personl nature of the message.
Popes have always embedded these messages into their pontifical letters or as fleeting references in some official speech. This particular message was so homey and personal, however, it took everyone by surprise. Not many months ago, I wrote, “The world now has the first pope with the ability to unite the Catholic and Protestant world—even the press is calling him ‘the people’s pope’!” I think this message of unity speaks to that notion.
There are many probable reasons for his candid appeal to Protestants. And I expect some are as much religious as political. In recent years, the Catholic Church has been rocked by bad press—a financial scandal, mountains of litigation defending priests who have abused children, a mysterious murder in the Vatican, and the unprecedented resignation of a healthy pope.
Now put these things together with the fact that Islam and secularism/atheism are spreading across Europe—and many Catholic churches are virtually empty on Sundays. Yet at the same time, the Charismatic churches are growing in Europe, Latin America, Africa, Australia, and Asia. And, of course, the direction and funding for most of these churches come out of North America.
So is it any wonder the pope would reach out to charismatic leaders in America? The Catholic Church can certainly read the handwriting on the wall. They know if they are going to survive in this new millennium, they will need an alliance with other Christian denominations.
But whatever the cause, do not think that these appeals for unity will mean that the Roman Church is ready to surrender what she considers her rightful authority. In the pope’s message, he says he believes he is like Joseph in the Old Testament, mistreated by and separated from his brothers. Remember, it is the brothers of Joseph, coming to him begging for bread, who bow down before him and move to where he was in Egypt.
Almost as important as the pope’s message is the preamble given by his friend and envoy, Anglican Bishop Tony Palmer. You will hear him declare at least three times in his introductory remarks, “The protest is over,” speaking, of course, of the Protestant Reformation. He even was so bold as to add, “Maybe we are all Catholics now.”
We should also not miss the enthusiastic response to the pope’s message given by these leaders, including a return video message of blessing for the pope.
So is there anything prophetic about this message? Let’s not jump to conclusions—but I venture that it certainly matches the flow of the second beast of Revelation 13, Protestants in North America, making an image to the first beast, Roman Catholics in Europe.
In her book Christian Service, the writer E.G. White comments:
“When Protestantism shall stretch her hand across the gulf to grasp the hand of the Roman power, when she shall reach over the abyss to clasp hands with Spiritualism (the charismatic movement?) … then we may know that the time has come for the marvelous working of Satan and that the end is near” (pp. 160, 161).
But remember, as Bible-believing Christians, we need not be afraid. The Word of God has told us these things must take place.
For more information regarding this important subject, I would also urge you to watch our latest documentary, Revelation: The Bride, the Beast & Babylon.
And one more thing, take a look at this insightful statement in the best-selling book on the Reformation, The Great Controversy:
“Romanism is now regarded by Protestants with far greater favor than in former years. In those countries where Catholicism is not in the ascendancy, and the papists are taking a conciliatory course in order to gain influence, there is an increasing indifference concerning the doctrines that separate the reformed churches from the papal hierarchy; the opinion is gaining ground that, after all, we do not differ so widely upon vital points as has been supposed, and that a little concession on our part will bring us into a better understanding with Rome. The time was when Protestants placed a high value upon the liberty of conscience which had been so dearly purchased. They taught their children to abhor popery and held that to seek harmony with Rome would be disloyalty to God. But how widely different are the sentiments now expressed!” (p. 563).
Perhaps this is what it looks like when prophecy is being fulfilled.