.- “If Evangelicals, like me, could have claimed a Pope as our own, he would have been John Paul II,” said Rev. Rob Schenck, a past board member and minister of the Evangelical Church Alliance.
“He did more to bring together conservative Bible-believing Christians, like me, in common cause with Catholics, both lay and clergy, than anyone else in the Roman Church's history,” he said.
The president of the National Clergy Council said Evangelicals appreciated Pope John Paul II’s “joy in the Lord” and smiling disposition.
“He had an obvious love of Christ that showed unapologetically in his bright eyes,” Schenck said. “We could tell that his Christian faith was first passionate before it was cerebral.”
Evangelicals also appreciated how the pontiff “traveled the world, preaching and teaching,” said Schenck. Pope John Paul II broke the stereotype and image of the pontiff held by Evangelicals as “a monarch” or emperor “by crisscrossing the globe [and] preaching Jesus Christ.”
John Paul II also made an “extraordinary contribution” in helping Evangelicals appreciate Roman Catholics.
“Prior to John Paul II, Evangelicals were largely considered by Catholics to be ‘heretics’ who were outside the ‘true Church.’ John Paul instead affirmed us as, ‘brothers and sisters in the Lord,’” said Schenck.
While “great differences still exist and will remain between Evangelicals and Catholics ... no other time in history have Catholics and Evangelicals come closer together, recognizing one another as Christian brothers and sisters, and at no other time in history have we shared so much in common cause,” the minister observed.
“Whether it is the sanctity of human life, the sanctity of marriage and the family, or the public acknowledgement of our faith, we have discovered that the things that really matter most in these desperate times are held in common by Catholics and Evangelicals,” he noted.
Schenck said he will greatly miss John Paul II.
“But I suspect that when we all get to heaven, and both Evangelicals and Catholics are surprised by the numbers of each that made it there, we'll find this Pope winking from a corner,” he concluded.