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Pope Francis Recognizes Dialogue with Pentecostals is Important

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

This past Friday morning (September 28, 2018), Pope Francis met with the bishops who oversee the work of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU). Cardinal Kurt Koch is President of the PCPCU and Bishop Brian Farrell is its Secretary. The bishops responsible for ecumenism who relate to the PCPCU gather at once each year to review a specific project and see how things have progressed. I have not yet obtained the opening remarks of Cardinal Koch, but Pope Francis made a speech to the members of the PCPCU regarding their work with Pentecostals, Charismatics, and Evangelicals.

Pope Francis is most interested in the work with Classical Pentecostals as well as Charismatics. The PCPCU has been in dialogue with Classical Pentecostals since 1972. More recently, the PCPCU has met with Charismatics under that rubric, including a number of independent Pentecostal preachers like Kenneth Copeland, as well as a number of non-denominational Charismatic and megachurch pastors.

The dialogue with Classical Pentecostals began under the leadership of David du Plessis (at that time defrocked by the Assemblies of God – he was later reinstated). In 1985 David was succeeded by his younger brother, Justus du Plessis (Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa), who served as co-chair until 1992. At that time, I was elected to serve as the Pentecostal Co-chair.

The Dialogue is now in its seventh round, each of which has run from 5 to 8 years, with a couple of breaks. All previous rounds were completed with full, written reports that have been circulated widely and have been cited in a number of academic papers. They have all been well received. I have listed the places where they have been published below.

Saint Peter’s Basilica at sunset.
Image: Wikimedia Commons

For over 35 years, I have watched closely what the past three popes have had to say about Pentecostals. I believe that this is the first and fullest formal address given on the topic of Pentecostals by any pope to date. It is clear that Pope Francis recognizes some of the issues between Catholics and Pentecostals, but it is equally clear that he believes that this dialogue is particularly important. He highlights the work of the Spirit in ways that Pentecostals would likely highlight it, and I believe that it could be of help to other Pentecostals and Charismatics with ecumenical interests to see how strongly he supports the International Catholic – Pentecostal Dialogue which is overseen by the PCPCU.

I hope that you enjoy reading this short piece, and will take the time to look up some of the past reports made by members of the Dialogue. Please note the bibliographical information below.


Audience of the Holy Father with participants in the Plenary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, 28.09.2018

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Category: Fall 2018, Ministry

About the Author: Cecil M. Robeck, Jr., Ph.D. (Fuller Theological Seminary), is Senior Professor of Church History and Ecumenics and Special Assistant to the President for Ecumenical Relations at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. He is an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God who has served at the seminary since 1974. His work on the Azusa Street revival is well known. His ecumenical work, since 1984, is highly respected around the world by Christian leaders outside the Pentecostal Movement. He continues to serve as a bridge between Pentecostalism and the larger church world, leading international dialogues, participating in ecumenical consultations, and working on and writing about church-dividing issues. He appears regularly on the Town Hall weekly telecast. He co-edited The Cambridge Companion to Pentecostalism (Cambridge, 2014) with Amos Yong, The Azusa Street Revival and Its Legacy (Wipf & Stock, 2009) with Harold D. Hunter, and The Suffering Body: Responding to the Persecution of Christians (Paternoster, 2006) with Harold D. Hunter. He is also the author of The Azusa Street Mission and Revival: The Birth of the Global Pentecostal Movement (Thomas Nelson, 2006 and 2017) and Prophecy in Carthage: Perpetua, Tertullian, and Cyprian (Pilgrim, 1992). Faculty page

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