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Monday, July 28, 2014

Will Tragedy Derail Pope Francis on Christian Unity?

Pope Francis, Bishop Tony Palmer and Rev. Kenneth Copeland

History sometimes turns on tragedies, leaving people to ponder what might have been. A new Catholic focus for that question is a random motorcycle accident last Sunday in England, and whether it may change the arc of Pope Francis’ papacy on ecumenism, meaning the push for unity among Christians.

Christians, of course, are fond of preaching peace and brotherhood, but anyone looking at the notoriously splintered Christian landscape can see they often don’t practice that gospel. Thoughtful leaders on all sides have long tried to mend differences, with little effect, and there has been mounting hope that Pope Francis will be the one to finally move the ball, in part because of his long history of friendship with other Christians.

Francis is set to travel on Monday to the southern Italian city of Caserta to see a few of his old Protestant friends, and to pray with them. The get-together unfolds under the shadow of the loss of someone who was supposed to be there, Bishop Tony Palmer of the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches, who got to know the future pope while ministering in Argentina.




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