Godmother of punk meets pontiff: The broad appeal of Pope Francis

Rocker Patti Smith met Pope Francis yesterday, and “liked him a lot.” She’s not Catholic. She doesn’t even go to church. This guy seems to be cultivating the kind of hands-across-the-water appeal that draws throngs of non-Buddhists to hear the Dalai Lamai whenever he’s in town. Jonathan Merritt at Religion News Service posits that Francis may actually be the “first Protestant Pope:”

The election of Pope Francis may be the next step in bridging the divide between Catholics and Protestants. He has been called “a Pope for all Christians,” but could the growing popularity among non-Catholics make him “the first Protestant Pope?”

Francis has already met with Nikolaus Schneider, the head of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany. Dr. Schneider, who is ironically a Lutheran minister, said that Pope Benedict “offended” Protestants when he insisted in 2000 that Protestant communities were not “churches in the proper sense,” but he is hopeful for future Christian unity as a result of his meeting with Francis. This newfound common ground between the two groups, it seems, stems largely from the current Pope’s concern for the poor and marginalized.

“I hope a Pope who shows himself so close to the poor and the suffering also shows his understanding of couples who share everything except Communion,” Schneider told reporters after their meeting.

See Merritt’s full post here. What do Episcopal Cafe readers make of this? What difference does it make to non-Catholics what the pope says or does? And do we think Francis may actually help bridge the ancient gap between Catholics and everybody else? I know I’d hang out in St. Peter’s Square for a chance to shake his hand, and I didn’t feel that way about his predecessor.

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