Tony Palmer, a Protestant Christian leader and a close friend of Pope Francis, passed away in the U.K. on Sunday due to injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident.
The Order of the Ark Community, an internet-based Christian group overseen by Palmer, announced his July 20 death on its website.
Palmer was born in the U.K. and grew up in South Africa. He was a member of the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches, which views itself as “standing with in the Celtic and Anglican traditions” of Christianity.
He knew the Pope from his time in Argentina, when Bergoglio was Archbishop of Buenos Aires.
Palmer recounted his friendship with Pope Francis at a February gathering of Pentecostal leaders organized by the Texas-based Kenneth Copeland Ministries.
Palmer said he considered the Pope to be one of his three “spiritual fathers.” The two studied together and met often.
Palmer and Pope Francis had a meeting in mid-January during which they discussed Christian unity. Pope Francis suggested he record a video message on Palmer’s phone, and the message was then presented at the Pentecostal gathering.
In the message, the Pope described Palmer as “my brother,” saying the two have been “friends for years.”
“We have a lot of cultural riches and religious riches. And we have diverse traditions,” the Pope told the Pentecostal gathering. “But we have to encounter one another as brothers.”
He said that Christians had been separated by “sins” and “misunderstandings throughout history,” voicing his yearnings that the separation will end in communion.
“Let’s give each other a spiritual embrace and let God complete the work that he has begun,” Pope Francis said.
Palmer had urged Protestant Evangelical leaders to sign the 1999 Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification signed by representatives of the Church and of the Lutheran World Federation. He thought the document “brought an end to the Protest” of the Protestant Reformation.