After my participation at the inauguration of the Pope and my short conversation with the Pope the following day (which was carried live on Italian television and was also broadcast by Phoenix in German), I was interviewed by several media outlets. I also gave some exclusive statements which were referenced by the German and English media:
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I was now asked to make those exclusive statements accessible. The following are English translations of my press statements from March 21, 2013:
The Pope has initiated significant changes, of course largely symbolic at first, which directly relate to other churches. The fact that he openly welcomed the representatives of churches, using the word “church” without further ado, in his inaugural worship service, was a clear break with centuries of tradition, even if the claims of the Vatican declaration “Dominus Iesus” were not set aside. At his official audience with representatives of other churches, he abandoned the traditional red and gold papal throne, which was standing in a nearby room, and even abandoned the tradition of using a chair raised a couple steps above the surrounding floor. He even called the Ecumenical Patriarch “brother.” His affirmation of ecumenical cooperation and of the necessity of continuing discussion of theological agreements and differences was more pointed than has ever been formulated and clearly came from his heart.
As everyone could see from the live broadcast, his reception of Geoff Tunnicliffe, General Secretary of the World Evangelical Alliance, equally came from his heart, as did his greeting for me. The Pope knew exactly whom he was receiving, indicating it is completely alien to him to see evangelicals as a kind of Christian to be treated differently than other Christians are treated.
In my short discussion, I recommended to the Pope to take up the theme of Christian persecution more energetically and to give this concern an institutional home in the structure of the Vatican, which seemed to evoke a positive response. Already in his role as Archbishop, the Pope repeatedly stood behind support for evangelicals who were imprisoned on account of the faith. I hope for real progress in this arena.
As representatives of the World Evangelical Alliance, we held many discussions, in addition to those with the Pope. I spoke with German politicians who came to the papal inauguration as well as with the German cardinals and bishops who attended. I met eleven other cardinals and dozens of staff members of Vatican committees, as well as holding informal and official discussions with several guests from both Protestant and Orthodox churches. Among these were the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople and other patriarchs, archbishops, and general secretaries. For those from the German situation, where the free churches and the evangelical alliance have had only limited constructive contact with the old churches, it is surprising and pleasant that the World Evangelical Alliance is properly received in Rome and Geneva as representing 600 million Christians. This is not the result of any theological changes on the part of evangelicals, which no one expects from us, but results entirely from the existence and size of the evangelical movement.
Within the Vatican there is an optimist mood, which we saw in numerous discussions. Of course the Pope will have to implement his words and symbolic gestures in action, but he is trusted to activate the process of “desecularizing” the church, proclaimed by Benedict XVI, by means of energetically addressing the problems within the Curia, including every type of double morality and especially the problems of sexual abuse.