Vatican City, 13 December 2014 (VIS) – Yesterday, Friday 12 December, Pope Francis received in audience a delegation from the Salvation Army, well-known for their mission of evangelisation and voluntary work.
“Your visit is one of the good fruit of the more frequent and beneficial contacts that have developed during recent years between the Salvation Army and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity; contacts among which we must recall a series of theological conversations intended to promote better mutual understanding, mutual respect and regular collaboration. … I hope with all my heart that Catholics and Salvationists may continue to bear witness to Christ and the Gospel together in a world that greatly needs to experience God's mercy. Catholics and Salvationists, along with other Christians, recognise that the needy have a special place in God's heart, to the extent that the Lord Jesus Christ made Himself poor for us. As a consequence, they frequently encounter one another in the same human peripheries, and it is my fervent hope that common faith in our Saviour Jesus Christ, the sole mediator between God and Man, may become an increasingly solid foundation for friendship and collaboration between us”.
“I pray that in today's world, all Christ's disciples may offer their contribution with the same conviction and the same dynamism that the Salvation Army demonstrates in its devoted and valued service. The differences between Catholics and Salvationists on theological and ecclesiological matters must not obstruct the witness of our shared love for God and for our neighbour, a love that is able to inspire energetic efforts to restore the dignity of those who live at the margins of society”.
The Pope concluded by recounting an anecdote. When he was four years old – the year was 1940 – he was walking along the street with his grandmother. “At that time, there was the idea that all Protestants would go to hell. On the other side of the road there were two women from the Salvation Army, wearing their hats. And, I remember as if it were yesterday, I asked my grandmother, 'Who are those people? Nuns?', and she answered, 'No, they are Protestants, but they are good'. And so my grandmother, thanks to your good witness, opened the door to ecumenism for me. I received my first ecumenical sermon in front of you. Thank you very much”.