I recently came across an interesting YouTube video of the final minutes of a presentation given by the widely recognized Argentinian Evangelical Salvador Dellutri. (The video is in Spanish. See my translated transcript below.) He is addressing a group of fellow Evangelicals on the "power of influence" and concludes by sharing a story about his memorable meeting with then Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio.
The first four and a half minutes of the video are delightful to watch. Dellutri begins by describing the circumstances of his meeting with the future pope. He had been lobbying for a “National Day of the Bible” in Argentina, and the minister of the interior informed him that he needed to enlist support among the leaders of other Christian churches. This led him to seek a meeting with the cardinal archbishop.
Dellutri goes on to describes how apprehensive he was in approaching a Catholic prelate about a matter related to the Bible. As an Evangelical, he was distrustful of Catholic leaders and was sure that the archbishop would refuse to support the initiative. (You know, the whole "Catholics keep the Bible from the people" thing.) Little did Dellutri know he was in for an eye-opening experience.
The Catholic prelate he encountered turned out to be the antithesis of the caricature in Dellutri’s mind, defying the stereotypes held by many Evangelical Protestants. He found Cardinal Bergoglio to be truly humble, not pompous or triumphalistic, and a fellow lover of sacred Scripture. who was a more ardent defender and promoter of Scripture than he was! Dellutri was pleasantly surprised when the cardinal pledged his complete support of his Bible initiative.
At the end of their meeting, Cardinal Bergoglio turned to Dellutri and suggested that they pray together for the success of the initiative. Dellutri was doubtful of the cardinal's ability to pray rather than just "recite prayers." (You know, the whole "vain repitition" thing.) But the cardinal’s spontaneous and biblically rich prayer, he said, gave him goosebumps. If that weren’t enough, as the cardinal was graciously seeing him out to the elevator, he asked Dellutri to pray for him. Dellutri was speechless, and Cardinal Bergoglio added that every Wednesday he prayed for an hour with his gardener, who happened to be an Evangelical.
This is where the story takes an unfortunate yet unsurprising turn.
Here, says Dellutri, a light went on in his head. This explains everything! It was the Evangelical gardener who taught this Catholic archbishop how to pray and how to appreciate the Bible! That is the power of influence! We should all strive, then, to be like this humble gardener who brought the true gospel to a powerful Catholic prelate.
Dellutri's unfortunate conclusion stands in sharp contrast with the account of another Evangelical pastor, whom many regard as the Billy Graham of Latin America: Luis Palau. In a recent interview published in Chrisitanity Today, Palau shares about his friendship with Cardinal Bergoglio. Unlike Dellutri, however, Palau recognizes that our new pope's evangelical qualities are not in spite of being Catholic but because he is Catholic. He admires and respects Pope Francis for his great love of God, his deep spiritual life, his reverence for the word of God, his moral and doctrinal fidelity, and his openness to Christians of other faith traditions.
Palau recognizes what Dellutri and so many like him do not: that the one who exerted the "power of influence" over this most humble and evangelistic succesor of St. Peter is the first and most perfect evangelizer, Jesus Christ.
Let us earnestly pray that more of our Protestant brothers and sisters might move beyond the stereotypes, myths, and caricatures that continue to be perpetuated against Catholics to this day, and see us for who we truly are. Let us also pray for the grace, humility, and courage to do as Pope Francis has done . . . and show them.
(Translated transcription of YouTube video)
I conclude with a story about something that happened to me in Buenos Aires. We were wanting to petition for a “Day of the Bible” by national decree . . . that a day would be designated “The National Day of the Bible.” The Minister of the Interior of Argentina informed me that we had to achieve a consensus, and so I had to meet with the Archbishop Primate of Argentina to speak with him in order to find out if he was in agreement, if we could together sign the agreement, along with the Orthodox, and along with everyone else [all other Christian leaders] so that we could have a National Day of the Bible.
I arrived without knowing exactly what to expect, and Magr.(Bishop) Jorge Bergoglio, who was the number two (runner up) in the last papal conclave. received me in his office and we began to speak about the “Day of the Bible.” I expected a great opposition and instead encountered a man who said to me, “You know, I have come to the conclusion that only the Bible can change this country and no one else. In all of your efforts to share the Bible, you will find me right behind you. I am a Jesuit. I understand verticality. You distribute the Bible and want to promote the Bible, you will have my complete support.” I said to myself, “This can’t be . . . this can’t be.” Nevertheless, I must tell you that he gave me his complete support. He have me his complete support, in every respect.
We reached the end of our conversation and I didn’t know what to think. That man defended the Bible more than me. And so we reach the end, and I was suspicious because dignitaries from the Catholic Church have tripped me up on many occasions and in several different ways. I have had many tremendous battles in that sense. But with this one, I was totally disoriented. We reached the end of our conversation and we stood up, and he says to me, “Pastor, why don’t we pray together to the Lord?” [Laughter] And so I said,“Why, of course! Why don’t YOU lead the prayer?” in order to see what he would say. I expected to hear him pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven . . .” Which doesn’t offend me as it is something that we ourselves need to recover in our churches.
This man bowed his head and prayed a prayer, brother, which gave me goosebumps. Asking God’s blessing on this initiative. He didn’t stray one bit to the left or the right of what the word of God said. I was totally disconcerted.
I went to bid him farewell and he tells me, “No, I will accompany you to the elevator.” He takes me by the arm and tells me, “I would like to ask you for a favor. Pray for me.” I said to myself, “What happened here?” And when we arrived at the elevator, he looked at me and knew what I was thinking and he said, “You know, every Wednesday, I have one hour of prayer here with my gardener, who is an Evangelical. And I pray with him for one hour every Wednesday." We are talking about here about “influence.” That gardener . . . let us all strive to be that gardener . . . anonymous . . . anonymous . . . who approached a man with so much power and taught him what real prayer is . . . who taught him the value of the word of God. If we are like that gardener, then we will have fulfilled with our influence. May God bless you [applause].