I am not a Catholic. Truth be told, I know very little about the process for picking the next pope. As a Protestant pastor I probably know more than most about Catholicism, but when it comes to all things papal I confess ignorance, (confession is good for Protestants too).
That being said, I’ve been watching with interest the news reports about Pope Benedict’s decision to resign. Few Protestants understand the magnitude of this man’s influence or of his decision to abdicate.
According to a report on global Christianity, more than 50 percent of the world’s professed Christians are Catholic, with well over 1.1 billion adherents worldwide. In case you’re wondering, that makes the pope one of the most powerful men in the world. Catholic or not, this makes the decision regarding Benedict’s successor huge for all of us.
So my perspective on this is simple: We should all pray for this incredibly important selection process.
- Pray for the man who will carry this burden of leadership. Pray the prayer of Jesus, “Father, Your kingdom come; Your will be done.” By the way, for those Protestants potentially in an uproar right now over my challenge to pray for the next pope, remember, Jesus said we are to pray even for those who mistreat us (Luke 6:28). We are instructed to pray for all no matter what or who they are. Even if you have a beef with Catholicism, you never have an excuse not to pray.
- Pray for a new season of healing for our Catholic brothers and sisters. Catholic or Protestant, the world sees us all as Christians. Whether we like it or not, the reputation of the Catholic Church affects the reputation of the entire church throughout the world.
- Pray for the billions of non-believers who will watch this process unfold over the weeks to come. Many will be either drawn closer to God or repelled by what they see. I pray that somehow, at the very least, a seed of hunger is deposited in their hearts for relationship with Jesus. The enemy would love to use this as a tool to give people far from God one more excuse to stay far from him. I pray not.
For the record, my heart is for the Church of Jesus, his bride in all her biblically-based forms and variety. If they call Jesus “Lord” and live to serve him and his kingdom, they are my brothers and sisters regardless of our doctrinal differences. That is not some watered-down ecumenical babbling — that is the Gospel truth.