ROME — Jorge Bergoglio, the leader of Roman Catholicism, met on Saturday with Mormon leader Russell Nelson and Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The two discussed their “mutual concerns” about various societal issues, and exchanged gifts, which included Bergoglio’s writings on the Islamic religion. Some opine that the meeting is another example of the Vatican’s goal to forge a one world religion.
Nelson and Ballard are currently in Rome for the dedication of the new Mormon temple in the city.
“He is a wonderful, gracious man,” Nelson tweeted following the meeting. “We have much in common. The differences in doctrine are real—and they’re important—but they’re not nearly as important as the things we have in common.”
He also explained in a video and press release posted to the Latter Day Saints newsroom that the three discussed their concerns about various global issues, from human suffering, to their emphasis on the family unit, to religious liberty.
“We talked about our mutual concern for the people who suffer throughout the world and [our desire] to relieve human suffering,” Nelson recalled. “We talked about the importance of religious liberty, the importance of the family, our mutual concern for the youth, the church, and the need for people to come to God and worship Him, pray to Him and have the stability that faith in Jesus Christ will bring in their lives.”
Ballard said he noted to Bergoglio that Mormons and Catholics already work together on a number of fronts.
“We explained to His Holiness that we work side by side, that we have projects with Catholic Relief Services all over the world in over 43 countries,” he outlined. “We’ve been shoulder to shoulder as partners in trying to relieve suffering and trying to help people who are struggling.”
Nelson and Ballard presented Bergoglio with a miniature version of the Christus statue that is displayed in the new Rome temple, as well as a framed copy of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” Bergoglio gave the men his declaration on the family and his writings on the Islamic religion, according to Deseret News.
Saturday’s visit was not the first time that Mormon leaders have met with Bergoglio. In 2014, President Henry Eyring was greeted by Bergoglio while attending the interfaith Vatican summit on marriage. In 2010, Ballard met with other Vatican officials in Rome, including Archbishop Brian Farrell of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
In 1995, then-President Gordon B. Hinckley donated a copy of the Encyclopedia of Mormonism to the Vatican Library.
While some applauded Saturday’s meeting, commenting under Nelson’s tweet that the reception was “a great showing of unity and world community,” “a wonderful union of leaders” and “a most spectacular interfaith meeting,” others find the occasion to be another example of the Vatican’s desire to unite all religions.
“The [meeting of] the pope with another leader of a world religion adds to the growing evidence of his agenda to bring all religions under the power and influence of the papacy,” Mike Gendron of Proclaiming the Gospel Ministries in Southlake, Texas told Christian News Network. “Pope Francis is a man with an end times mission to unite the people of the world with a global religion of peace and prosperity.”
As previously reported, last month, Bergoglio met with Islamic Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb in Abu Dhabi, where he jointly signed the “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together.”
It asserts that “the diversity of religions … are willed by God,” and that men should not be “forced to adhere to a certain religion or culture.”
“The pluralism and the diversity of religions, color, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings,” the document reads. “This divine wisdom is the source from which the right to freedom of belief and the freedom to be different derives. Therefore, the fact that people are forced to adhere to a certain religion or culture must be rejected, as too the imposition of a cultural way of life that others do not accept.”
Gendron said that while Nelson noted that there are differences between Mormonism and Roman Catholicism, “the one doctrine they have in common is a doctrine that is common to all religions and apostate Christianity.”
“It is the doctrine of salvation by works and human merit,” he stated. “All the religions of the world teach a works-righteous salvation. Only biblical Christianity teaches salvation by God’s grace based on the finished, all-sufficient work and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.”
He expressed a hopefulness that Christians will share the gospel with both religions.
“[B]oth men are leading their respective flocks down the wide road to destruction with their false gospels (Mat. 7:13),” Gendron said. “Members of both religions will never know they have been deceived unless they are lovingly confronted with the true gospel of grace. It is my prayer that every Christian who has been sanctified by the truth of God’s Word will evangelize these two huge mission fields.”