ROME — Megachurch speaker and author Joel Osteen was among a group of political and religious leaders who met with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Thursday.
According to reports, Osteen was part of a delegation organized by the International Foundation in an effort to encourage interfaith relations and ecumenicism. Utah Senator Mike Lee (R), a Mormon, Gayle Beebe, the president of the interdenominational Westmont College in California, and Pastor Tim Timmons, founder of South Coast Community Church also in California, were among those who who greeted the pope, along with Osteen.
“I just felt very honored and very humbled,” Osteen told local television station Click 2 Houston. “It was amazing. And even to go back into that part of the Vatican—there’s so much history there, the place that they took us through. You feel that deep respect and reverence for God.”
The Lakewood leader also met with other Vatican staff during his visit, including Cardinal Pietro Paroli, Secretary of State for the Vatican, and had dinner with an unspecified staff member.
Osteen attended mass in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday prior to the meeting in the midst of a crowd of 100,000 people.
“Afterward, [the pope] spent an hour and a half going through the crowd with the Popemobile, greeting people,” he recalled to the Houston Chronicle. “It was very heartwarming to see him caring for people.”
Osteen told reporters that he believed the pope’s message and focus is one of unity.
“I love the fact that’s he’s made the Church more inclusive,” he said. “Not trying to make it smaller, but to try to make it larger—to take everybody in. So, that just resonates with me.”
But others have expressed sadness about Osteen’s recent meeting at the Vatican, stating that ecumenicism is far from biblical.
“Joel Osteen has joined the rank of all other popular ministries in bowing his knee to the anti-Christ system, and those that blindly follow his leadership will be the first ones in line with their hand out to be marked by the beast,” Pastor Mark Herridge Sr. of Pentecostal Lighthouse Church in Livingston, Texas told Christian News Network.
“Any Protestant ministry that links up with the pope and Catholicism is betraying the sacrifice of millions of faithful Christians that have died at the hands of this brutal, dictatorial and oppressive religion that has never represented the Church of the Living God as outlined in New Testament teaching,” he said.
Amy Spreeman of Stand Up for the Truth said that it is important that Christians take note of these developments.
“You might be saying to your evangelical self, ‘Who cares what Joel Osteen does, or what the pope does, or what a Mormon senator does? These things surely don’t apply to my faith, do they?'” she wrote. “[P]erhaps it’s time to stop focusing on those audacious dreams and life tips and start paying attention to your Bible and to those pesky news headlines that threaten to wake us from our slumber. ”