In a letter addressed to His Holiness Pope Francis I, the Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the US and Canada, and the Rev. Dr. Robert Welsh, ecumenical officer for the Disciples of Christ, congratulate him upon his election and celebrate the hope that he represents not only to the Roman Catholic Church, but also to the global and ecumenical church in his spirit of humility, simplicity, holiness, and commitment to the ‘church of the poor.’
The letter was issued following the announcement on March 13 that Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, has been elevated to pope by the conclave of cardinals gathered in the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel.
“The name you have chosen,” the letter states,“is a sign for us that the call to ministry is not to a position of privilege or power, but to a lifestyle of service and simplicity that reflects St. Francis of Assisi’s passion for justice, the care of creation, and seeking God’s peace. Our prayer is that your ministry will be blessed by God in leading the church to be truly ‘an instrument of peace’ so desperately needs in our world today: moving from hatred to love; from injury to pardon; from doubt to faith; from despair to hope.”
In recognition that Pope Francis I is the first Pope to be named from Latin America, Watkins noted the significance of this decision that identifies the church more closely with the concerns of the Global South in solidarity with the suffering, the poor, and the marginalized.
Affirming the on-going, official dialogue between the Disciples of Christ and the Roman Catholic Church, Welsh stated that he looks forward to continuing this conversation as together we seek to give witness to God’s gift of oneness in Christ, especially as we will be focusing our dialogue on the meaning of the Lord’s Supper for the life of the church and the life of the world.
Watkins and Welsh conclude their letter with a commitment of Disciples to continue to pray for Pope Francis I as he begins his service as pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church and as he embarks on this new “journey” of charity, love and mutual trust among all churches and all Christians.