Marlene Kropf: A pope who resonates with Mennonites

Bridgefolk perspectives on Pope Francis

Many Mennonites have been heartened by the choice of a new pope.  Leaders of both Mennonite World Conference and Mennonite Church USA immediately sent words of blessing to Pope Francis I and promised to support him in prayer.

At the invitation of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, two Mennonites attended the March 19 and 20 inaugural services in Rome, where they greeted the new pope personally.  What impressed them were the same qualities of humility and simplicity that many Mennonites have noticed.  They wrote, in a news report, that “Pope Francis seems to be a very friendly and humble person.  It was our impression that he will take steps to let the papal office appear in a different way.” They mentioned the significance of small signs, such as the fact that he chose not to stand on a podium during the audience with ecumenical guests, but instead occupied a chair that was the same kind as the one given to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.

The letter sent by Mennonite Church USA leaders affirmed his choice of a name that “reminds us of Francis of Assisi, a follower of Jesus who loved peace, cared for the poor, and cherished creation.”  They concluded, “Most of all, we appreciate his profound commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Though Mennonites know that a single leader, no matter how powerful, cannot renew the church by himself, they are deeply hopeful that Pope Francis I will continue to nurture the friendship that is growing between Mennonites and Roman Catholics.  Beyond that, they look forward to seeing how the new pope will work toward the unity of all Christians and extend a hand of friendship to all people of faith.

Marlene Kropf is Co-Chair of Bridgefolk.

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