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A letter from PC(USA) leaders on the election of the 226th Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church, His Holiness Pope Francis

March 14, 2013

Louisville

In a letter to His Holiness Pope Francis, the Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and the Rev. Dr. Neal D. Presa, Moderator of the 220th General Assembly (2012), offered the newly elected pope their best wishes and the church’s commitment to pray for his leadership.

From the Epistle to the Church at Ephesus, Parsons and Presa offered this particular prayer,

“I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, God may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. “

In writing to the pope on behalf of the PC(USA), Parsons and Presa are calling upon Presbyterians to join with their sisters and brothers in the Roman Catholic Church in praying for the newly elected Pope Francis, and wishing him the fullness of God’s grace as he begins this new ministry.

“Recognizing the challenges within the Roman Catholic Church and the world, these are challenging times to be called into leadership,” Parsons said. “We commend the cardinals for their election of the first pontiff from the Americas—particularly Latin America—to lead the worldwide communion of Catholics. We pray and trust that the humility and grace which have marked his leadership in Argentina will touch the whole of the Roman church, the wider Christian community and whole human family.”

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has long valued the Roman Catholic Church in its ecumenical relationships. The 1.9 million member denomination continues in international dialogue with the Vatican through the World Communion of Reformed Churches. The Rev. Dr. Martha Moore-Keish, associate professor of Theology at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, serves on that dialogue team.

The PC(USA) entered an historic agreement with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on baptism, and is currently in the eighth round of dialogue with the USCCB focused on issues of ecclesiology. The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Campbell, pastor of Highland Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, serves as the co-chair of the national dialogue, which also includes the Rev. David Gambrell, associate for Worship for the Presbyterian Mission Agency, as a representative of the PC(USA). The Rev. Robina Winbush, associated stated clerk for Ecumenical Relations, staffs these relationships.

The full text of the letter:

His Holiness Pope Francis
The Catholic Church
Vatican City
Rome, Italy

Your Holiness,

May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you! On behalf of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), we write to offer to you our best wishes and commitment of prayer as you answer the call of the Church—through the voice of the Cardinals—to lead the Roman Catholic Church. You have clearly been called to offer spiritual leadership that will touch the Catholic Church and the world.

As the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), we have been committed to seeking the unity of the church and the reconciliation of the Christian family. Most recently, we entered into an historic agreement with the Unites States Conference of Catholic Bishops to mutually recognize our churches' baptisms. We are mindful that it is our baptism into Christ that serves as the foundation of our quest for Christian unity.

The task before you is great, as is the grace of God which will lead you. Our prayer for you as you begin this new ministry comes from the letter of the Apostle Paul to the Church at Ephesus, “I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, God may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. “

We welcome you to this ministry and pray God’s richest blessings upon you and the faithful of the Roman Catholic Church.

With Christian love and respect,

Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly

Neal D. Presa
Moderator of the 220th General Assembly

c: His Eminence Kurt Cardinal Koch
His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan
Most Reverend Dennis Madden
Father John Crossin

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