“No matter what divides us—his words unites us.” — official movie trailer (1)
The compelling new documentary, Pope Francis: A Man of His Word, hit the American movie screens on May 18, 2018, smashing criticisms of the Pope’s political agenda and trumpeting his message of religious unity and world peace. Co-written and directed by the award-winning, Wim Wenders, this film was conceived when the Vatican contacted Wenders to highlight the life and ideals of Pope Francis in Hollywood style. This movie has had amazing success on its opening weekend—grossing $507,870 from 346 theaters (2). It has steadily gained popularity and as of July 22, 2018, it grossed “$1.8 million in the United States and Canada, and $2.8 million in other territories, for a total worldwide gross of $4.6 million” (3). Its popularity has continued to increase, propelling this film to sixth place for highest box office results for documentaries produced in 2018 (4).
And what do American audiences say about this new initiative by the Vatican and its cohorts? Audiences gave the film a “92 percent overall positive score and an 82 percent “definite recommend” (5). These scores would come as no surprise if they were attributed to the latest superhero movie, but for a religious documentary, they are nothing but astounding! The Washington Post gave this film a three star rating, summarizing its contents by stating, “An absorbing, inspiring movie . . . that introduces viewers to a swashbuckling global SUPERHERO . . . .” (6, capitalization added). Proclaiming Pope Francis’ political and spiritual leadership of all faiths, the Vatican further declares that he “has gained the trust of people of all faith traditions and cultures across the world” (7).
Amazingly, the majority of Americans seem to agree. According to a recent Pew Research survey, “Among the U.S. public as a whole (including both Catholics and non-Catholics), roughly six-in-ten say they have a favorable view of Pope Francis.” Additionally, “two-thirds (67%) of white mainline Protestants and 58% of religiously unaffiliated adults have positive views of Francis” (8). These statistics show that not only the majority of Christians, but even the majority of Americans that don’t claim to be religious think positively of the pope.
From Conflict to Communion: A Joint Declaration
Few could argue that Pope Francis has kept his word when it comes to his uncanny success in uniting Protestants, Orthodox (9), and even Muslims (10) into partnership with the Papacy. The year of 2017 celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the international Lutheran-Catholic dialogue that began in 1967 and cumulated on the Protestant Reformation’s 500th year anniversary at the signing of an interfaith statement on the doctrine of Justification (11). Ironically, this is the same doctrine that initially divided Protestants from the Catholic Church during the Dark Ages. Amazingly, the Lutheran World Federation’s assistant general secretary, Dr. Kaisamari Hintikka, joyously declared, “The fact that all the historical Churches of the west have now a shared understanding of justification is a wonderful way to mark the Reformation anniversary . . . . What used to divide us, now actually unites us” (12).
But the Lutherans are not the only Protestants formally declaring their unity with the Papacy. This joint declaration on justification has been formally adopted by the World Methodist Council in 2006, the Anglican Consultive Council in 2016, and the World Communion of Reformed Churches in July, 2017 (13), which includes “233 member denominations in 110 countries . . . claiming 100 million people, thus being the third largest Christian communion in the world after the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church” (14)(15). As a result of this interfaith initiative, many have said that 2017 has marked the ending of the Protestant Reformation. The Papacy and the Lutheran World Federation summarized this confederation of churches by stating, "We begged forgiveness for our failures and for the ways in which Christians have wounded the Body of the Lord and offended each other during the 500 years since the beginning of the Reformation until today” (16, italics added). Interestingly, this apology was predicted over a hundred years ago:
“As the Protestant churches have been seeking the favor of the world, false charity has blinded their eyes. They do not see but that it is right to believe good of all evil, and as the inevitable result they will finally believe evil of all good. Instead of standing in defense of the faith once delivered to the saints, they are now, as it were, apologizing to Rome for their uncharitable opinion of her, begging pardon for their bigotry” (17).
Furthermore, the assistant General Secretary for Ecumenical Relations of the Lutheran World Federation summarized this joint declaration by stating, “We are witnessing a certain momentum in our shared ecumenical journey. This consultation is meant to appreciate and to use that gift, to heal the wounds in the body of Christ” (18, italics added). The Pope, himself, speaking of bringing Protestants back into agreement with the Catholic Church, stated that “it is the favorable time to heal wounds” (19).
“Healing the Wounds”
This is an interesting choice of words—“to heal wounds,” considering that Bible prophecy uses these same words to describe the last events on earth before Jesus comes. Revelation 13: 1-3 says,
“And I stood upon the sand of the sea (earthly nations/people- Rev.17:15), and saw a beast (kingdom/nation- Dan. 7:23) rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns (civil and religious powers combined-Dan. 7:24-25; Rev. 17:12) and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name (religious power claiming to be god and to forgive sin" (John 10:33; Mark 2:7).
Pope Francis claims to be the “Vicar of Christ,” selling indulgences to forgive sin during 2015, the “Year of Mercy” (20) . . . . the dragon (Satan-paganism/spiritualism-Rev. 12:9; GC 438, 588) gave him his power, his throne, and great authority. And I saw one of his heads (the Roman Catholic Church) as if it had been mortally wounded (1798- Pope taken captive—loses civil authority), and his DEADLY WOUND WAS HEALED (political and spiritual power restored to the Papacy). And ALL THE WORLD marveled and followed the beast.”
Truly, this text is being fulfilled today right before our very eyes! Even Protestant America has made no apologies for inviting Pope Francis to present his political and religious agenda to Congress in September of 2015. Yet, as Adventists, we know that “when Protestantism shall stretch her hand across the gulf to grasp the hand of the Roman power, when she shall reach over the abyss to clasp hands with Spiritualism, when, under the influence of this threefold union, our country shall repudiate every principle of its Constitution as a Protestant and Republican government, and shall make provision for the propagation of papal falsehoods and delusions, then we may know that the time has come for the marvelous working of Satan, and that the end is near” (21).
Who is Changing?
Many argue that the Catholic Church and the Papacy have changed in recent years and will not repeat the atrocities of the Dark Ages. However, we have been warned: “And this is the religion (Catholicism) Protestants are beginning to look upon with so much favor, and which will eventually be united with Protestantism. This union will not, however, be effected by a change in Catholicism, for Rome never changes. She claims infallibility. It is Protestantism that will change. The adoption of liberal ideas on its part will bring it where it can clasp the hand of Catholicism” (22). The “adoption of liberal ideas” is exactly what we see in American lifestyle and in the media today, both within and without the church, and the embracing of this postmodern culture is the catalyst for the Protestant church’s confederacy with the Catholic church.
Men and Women of God’s Word
The recent documentary, Pope Francis: A Man of His Word, is just another example of Papal Rome’s bewitching power to draw the world under its universal authority. As Protestant Christians, we must be men and women of THE Word— GOD’S WORD—not rely on Pope Francis’s word. We must test every person claiming to speak truth by Isaiah 8: 20, “To the LAW and to the TESTIMONY! If they speak not according to THIS WORD, it is because there is no light in them.” May God help us as we continue the work of the Protestant Reformation and strive to spread the Three Angels’ Messages to the world in preparation for Christ’s soon coming!
Melissa Sexson Hanson is an avid student of Bible prophecy and an active member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. She has elementary education and English secondary degrees from Union College and is currently working as a freelance writer with the purpose of preparing souls for Christ’s soon return.
17. White: The Great Controversy, 571.4
21. White: Testimonies for the Church 5:451
22. White: The Review and Herald, June 1, 1886