Pope Francis & non-Catholics: Is He “Our” Pope, Too?

“Habemas papem” — “We have a Pope”


With those words, the world was introduced to the new Bishop of Rome — former cardinal and now Pope — Jorge Mario Bergoglio. My wife and I were watching the live broadcast (on Fox News Channel, of course) when the curtain on the Vatican balcony was pulled back and the new Pope — the first named Francis, the first Jesuit, and the first from the Americas — walked onto arguably the largest stage in the world. As a student of culture, religion, and politics, this moment was truly historical, even for non-Catholic Southern Baptists like me.

When French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran (who himself looked frail and weak) declared, “We have a Pope,” he obviously meant that the Roman Catholic Church had a new Pope. But, do Christians outside the RCC also have a Pope? Now, I know that is a loaded question. In one sense, the answer is a clear-cut “No!” As the Pastor of a Southern Baptist church, our church, like the overwhelming number of other Baptist (Southern and otherwise) churches do not recognize any other ecclesiastical authority outside the local church. That simply means that we do not answer to any Bishops or Popes or any entity or seminary Presidents. The members of the local church, under the headship of Jesus Christ and in accordance with the Bible, have final say as to what happens within the church.

However, as part of the greater Christian community worldwide (and yes, I do believe that Catholics are part of that community while Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses are not), Pope Francis I is “our Pope.” Now, before some of my Baptist brethren become unhinged, let me explain. I do not believe that any Pope, including this Pope, is infallible. Only Scripture is inerrant and only Jesus Christ was perfect. I also do not believe that Peter was the first Pope. When Jesus told Peter “on this rock I will build My Church,”  I believe that Jesus was telling Peter (and us) that the Church would be built upon the rock of Peter’s confession of faith, “You (Jesus) are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” and not upon Peter himself.

That being said, I believe that Pope Francis will be the symbol of Christianity for a watching world. What he says and does will not only affect the Roman Catholic Church, but Pope Francis’ words and actions will speak for all of Christendom, whether we like it or not. Of course, there will be some things that non-Catholics will not like when it comes to certain doctrinal issues that continue to differentiate Catholicism from other Christian groups (i.e., the importance of the Virgin Mary, the veneration of saints, and the ultimate meaning of the Gospel and Salvation to name but a few). But, it seems that on the major moral issues confronting not just American culture, but cultures the world over — abortion, euthanasia, and sexual ethics, including same-sex marriage/gay rights — that Pope Francis will continue to speak Biblical truth. Regardless of what actions the new Pope takes to confront poverty, his Biblical stance on the sanctity of human life (from conception to natural death) and marriage (one man and one woman) will not endear him to the liberal, anti-Catholic elements within the Catholic Church itself, much less to those outside the RCC.

Being a non-Catholic, it is not surprising that I had never heard of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio prior to Wednesday’s announcement. And, while I will continue to harbor strong disagreements with my Catholic friends on certain doctrinal issues, I nevertheless recognize that Pope Francis I is “my Pope,” much like John Paul II was the Pope to the world.  In one of his first acts, the new Pope asked for the prayers of the people, that God would bless him in his new ministry of service. Even as non-Catholics, might it be our prayer for Pope Francis that God would use him to bring honor and glory to the Lord as he proclaims Peter’s confession: “You (Jesus) still are and always will be the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” And, may Pope Francis, the Jesuit from Argentina, live out the example of Romans 1:17, “the righteous shall live by faith.” That wouldn’t be a first for a Pope. But, that would be a pretty awesome witness for a lost world!


8 comments for “Pope Francis & non-Catholics: Is He “Our” Pope, Too?

  1. March 14, 2013 at 10:58 AM

    Pretty good deal. From being the Antichrist to being a part of the community of Christ. The eschatological efforts of the Romanists did a bang up job selling the pre-trib, pre-mil, etc. to the Protestants in order to get the RCs off the hook as being the Antichrist. We even had one preach, Rick Warren, exhorting us all to pray for the Cardinals in their efforts to select the Pope. And yet I had a friend whose father was tortured in an Iron Maiden (an invention of the Inquisition or, at least, noted for its relationship to that office which has never been abolished but had a name change and the last pope, the one who resigned, had been head of the renamed outfit (name change was circa 1906).

    • March 14, 2013 at 2:02 PM

      Dr. Willingham,

      My Student Pastor and I were talking this morning about the new Pope and how Catholics fit within greater Christendom. While Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses (among others) are clearly outside the bounds of Christian belief, I would not put the RCC automatically outside the bounds of Christianity, notwithstanding some fairly significant differences. I suppose it is the difference between wrong doctrine and heretical doctrine. And, while Pope Francis has no real authority outside the RCC, I think that Christians should pray that he would honor and glorify the Lord Jesus Christ and His Gospel through his service as Pope. I would much rather have the Pope as part of the community of Christ instead of the AntiChrist. Until he proves otherwise, I will operate with the understanding that Pope Francis is a follower of Christ, even if that may look different than the way I or other Southern Baptists/Protestants do it. Thanks and God bless,


      • March 14, 2013 at 2:12 PM

        I am not being belligerent or bigoted in raising the issue. I am simply reminding readers of a problem that has existed even up until very recently, namely, whose orthodoxy counts. The price paid by many souls in the inquisition and the religious wars is a reminder that folks dare not be trusted with too much power. How much of our change in relationships is due to real honest thinking, and how much is due to infiltration? There is a Jesuit vow that has been included in the past in the Congressional Record and other sources which certainly gives pause for thought, whether true or not. When folks play hard ball, people get hurt. I know the records of the Inquisition, like the records of slavery, and some pictures of the holacaust, taken by a church member many years ago, are very conducive to nightmares.

        • March 14, 2013 at 2:29 PM

          Dr. Willingham,

          I did not take your previous comment as either belligerent or bigoted. There is no question about the abuse of power within the Catholic Church in the past (and, of course, the abuse of power within other churches as well) and the temptation for fallen humans (even those redeemed by the blood of the Lamb) to abuse power in the present situation. I hope and pray that Pope Francis will not abuse the power of his office, but would humbly serve and live a life of faith that others (particularly non-believers) would be pointed to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. There are many obstacles to overcome within the RCC for that to become a reality, but I believe that a sovereign and holy God can use Pope Francis for His honor and glory. Even Protestants can hope and pray to that end. Thanks for taking the time to read and for the dialogue. God bless,


          • March 14, 2013 at 2:58 PM

            I pray for those in authority that we may live in peace. Things have surely changed in the 55 years of my Christian Profession. Before I was converted (from Atheism to Christ), no one ever told me I was going to Hell. After I was converted I have 4-5 people tell me in the first 5 years that I was, indeed, going to that place of eternal torments. Interestingly enough, they were representative of different denominations, including the Roman Catholics. To off-set that I also would have Baptists say the same thing as I did not buy that particular brand of the denomination I had joined. Later,a church I was serving was threatened with physical violence, due to a difference with a neighboring Parish over a school bus bill.. I, of course, believe in practice religious liberty. My church even handed out the literature of the neighboring Parish on the political issue about which we differed, and we still got threatened after that. We hope and pray that the Institution of Rome has indeed changed. After all, they have six members on the Supreme Court, a Vice President, and several leading Senators and Representatives, We look forward to the indications of change that are positive and lasting.

  2. Christiane
    March 14, 2013 at 2:03 PM

    Hi HOWELL,
    well, I know that there is the ‘Body of Christ’ and that Catholics are aware that it includes all Christian people . . . and I know that Pope John Paul II once said to Billy Graham ‘we are brothers’. And I know that at the very moment John Paul II appeared on the balcony as pope in Rome, there was a man preaching the gospel in John Paul’s old cathedral in Poland, and that man was Billy Graham who had been invited long before to come, not knowing that the John Paul would be called away to conclave right in the middle of his visit.

    I am sure that Francis, too, is very conscious of his ‘brothers in Christ’.
    ALL of them. 🙂

    Please pray for him in the way of your faith. He has asked for prayer from everyone.

    • March 14, 2013 at 5:54 PM


      Sorry for the delay in responding, but I somehow overlooked your comment earlier today. As I was only 11 or 12 at the time that John Paul became Pope, I was unaware and never had heard about Billy Graham’s preaching in Pope John Paul’s old cathedral in Poland. That is truly amazing. Thanks for sharing that we me and with my readers. I thought that it showed great humility and great strength for Pope Francis to ask for the prayers of the people. That it was his first request perhaps will be a positive sign of things to come. Thanks for stopping by and God bless,


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