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Despite his narrative, Pope Francis is no ecumenical revolutionary


Narratives, especially as they come to be shaped in the media, are a funny thing. Every public figure has one, and once they’re set in cement, almost everything that person says or does is seen through that lens.

For Pope Francis, a key element of his narrative is the (often exaggerated) notion that he’s a liberal maverick. Even when he does or says something that other popes have done or said a thousand times before, it’s touted as an innovation.

Recent days have brought examples on the ecumenical front, referring to the push for unity among the various branches of Christianity.

Briefly, here’s what’s happened:

  • Francis announced he’ll travel to Lund, Sweden, on Oct. 31, to open a year-long series of events for the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, together with the Lutheran World Federation and leaders of other Christian churches.
  • The Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation issued a “common prayer” for the anniversary, intended for use around the world by both churches.
  • At around the same time, it was reported that some members of a group of Finnish Lutherans visiting Rome were offered Communion in St. Peter’s Basilica in defiance of Catholic rules, a move later described as an error.
  • During an ecumenical service on Jan. 25, Francis asked for “mercy and forgiveness” for the way Christians have treated each other, including a request for forgiveness for behavior of Catholics that has not reflected “Gospel values.”

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