Pope Francis: The Pope for Everyone?
Pope Francis was called a “rock star” pope during his recent visit to Brazil. What is behind his apparent desire to be “a pope for everyone”?
Just four months into his papacy, Pope Francis has become an international sensation. Dramatically different in personality and style from his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis reminds many of the personable and charismatic Pope John Paul II.
Pope Francis has been carefully developing a distinct image for his papacy. For example:
- Minimizing the pomp of the ancient office by actions such as refusing to wear the flashy red papal shoes frequently donned by his predecessor.
- Personally paying his own hotel bill.
- And—instead of blessing the crowd who amassed at Vatican City to welcome him after his election—asking for prayers from them instead.
These gestures are part of the papal theme he has openly expressed—an emphasis on the world’s poor.
Catholicism’s recent troubles
His statements, focus and actions have led many to believe that this “pope for the poor” is intent on revitalizing the image and popularity of the Roman Catholic Church around the world.
It needs it! The last two decades have not always been positive for the Catholic Church. It has had to deal with two huge challenges: multiple sexual abuse scandals involving priests and declining attendance. Catholic Church attendance in Europe has steadily declined since World War II, largely due to increasing secularization and dissatisfaction with religion.
In the Americas, particularly Latin America, the Catholic Church has lost thousands of adherents to Protestant evangelical Christianity.
A pope for everyone?
Immediately upon his election, Time magazine hailed Pope Francis as the “New World Pope.” That title was a play on words since Pope Francis, an Argentinian, was the first pope from the New World, and he seems to appeal to the whole world. It seems the cardinals elected a pope who could, in a sense, repackage Catholicism in a way that would have universal appeal—especially in the developing nations.
That appears to be paying off. Despite already offending some staunch conservatives within the Catholic hierarchy, Pope Francis seems to be a hit and has garnered much more positive media coverage than his predecessor (who was often characterized as a stuffy, out-of-touch hardliner).
In another insightful feature on Pope Francis titled “A Pope for the Poor,” Time gave him an even more fascinating label—“a pope for everyone” (Howard Chua-Eoan, July 29, 2013, p. 36).
In addition to his popular focus on poverty in the world’s developing nations, Pope Francis has demonstrated two other very significant tendencies supporting the notion that he’s aiming to be “a pope for everyone”:
- Ecumenical efforts. Francis immediately made efforts to appear open and accepting of other faiths, such as showing support for Muslim immigrants entering Europe.
He has historically fostered positive relationships with the evangelical community in Latin America. Christianity Today (one of the world’s largest-circulation Protestant magazines) recently highlighted evangelicals’ positive perceptions and high hopes for a growing relationship with this pope. Whereas Pope Benedict treated Protestantism as a mere sect of Catholicism, Pope Francis treats Protestants as “brothers” and is known for having friendships with evangelical pastors, frequently asking for their prayers.
He has also reached out to the Eastern Orthodox Church, even publically referring to himself as “the bishop of Rome”—a title more acceptable to the Orthodox.
- De-emphasis on controversial moral issues. Pope Francis has noticeably not taken stands on hot-button moral issues, instead carefully wording statements implying a de-emphasis and softening on certain moral issues. Time reports, “He has also apparently withdrawn from active participation in debates over sexual morality and biology” (ibid., p. 39).
Returning to Rome from his recent trip to Brazil, Pope Francis made headlines with his answer to a question about homosexuality: “Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord? … You can’t marginalize these people” (“Pope Signals Openness to Gay Priests,” Wall Street Journal).
This statement, though carefully worded to not overtly contradict Catholic doctrine, seems like a clear attempt to appeal to a younger generation that overwhelmingly supports homosexual rights. He also recently stated that atheists could find their way to heaven.
A pope who reaches out to non-Catholics, homosexuals and atheists in a spirit of acceptance and brotherhood? It seems this is truly a man who desires to be a “pope for everyone.”
Many students of Bible prophecy have concluded that the Roman Catholic Church and the papacy are destined to play an important role in end-time events.
Revelation 17 contains a fascinating prophecy about a false religious institution in the end time. In prophetic language, a woman often symbolizes a church. God’s true Church is pictured as a “chaste virgin” (2 Corinthians 11:2) while a great false church is the antithesis—a “great harlot” (Revelation 17:1)—who is the “mother of harlots” (verse 5)—smaller churches that spawned off the mother church but maintain many of the same spiritually adulterous doctrines.
Extensive study of biblical prophecy and doctrine, as well as history, has led many to connect this “great harlot” with the Roman Catholic Church led by a charismatic pope.
Revelation 17 reveals that in the end time this “woman” will have worldwide influence (verse 1) and will be in an unholy alliance with political leaders of the world—particularly an end-time European beast power (verses 2-3). For more information on this end-time alliance, read “What Is Babylon?”
Not only will this end-time church attain great power through political influence, but it will perhaps form an ecumenical alliance with its many daughter churches. This will be accomplished partially by “signs, and lying wonders” (2 Thessalonians 2:9)—miracles that will lead to a worldwide deception, with followers believing its leader’s claims to divinity (2 Thessalonians 2:4). This could possibly involve an emphasis of the ancient title “vicar of Christ,” which includes the meaning “in the place of Christ” (“Vicar of Christ,” CatholicReference.net).
This end-time worldwide religious deception from “false christs and false prophets” will be so powerful that Christ warned “even the elect” could be deceived (Matthew 24:24).
Watch as this pope continues his efforts to become “a pope for everyone.” We are not saying that Pope Francis is the final leader prophesied in Revelation 17, but it is possible his actions could be paving the way for the papacy to regain some of the goodwill and popularity that the institution has lost in recent years.
Regardless of when these prophecies are fulfilled, don’t be blindly taken in by anyone or any institution teaching contrary to the Word of God!
To learn more about the prophetic significance of the papacy, read “Revelation 17: Who Is the Scarlet Woman?”