Northern Ireland news

Evangelical Christian group ‘warmly welcomes' visit by Pope Francis

Pope Francis meeting Taoiseach Enda Kenny in Rome

A BODY which represents evangelical Christians in the north has warmly welcomed Pope Francis' visit to Ireland in 2018.

David Smyth from Evangelical Alliance said he wanted to extend a "warm and sincere welcome to the Pope" and hoped that such a welcome would be shown "by the whole community".

"Sometimes we can be concerned that by showing warmth or generosity that that can be misunderstood as endorsing everything someone stands for," he said.

"Maybe we need to be bolder in our welcome."

Mr Smyth said the Pope's visit would come after the 500th anniversary of the Reformation - the schism from the Catholic Church which led to the formation of many Protestant churches - is marked next year.

He said while it is too early to say if his group would be involved in any events around the Pope's visit, it already works closely with the Catholic Church on many issues.

Mr Smyth spoke after a minister in the Free Presbyterian Church, founded by the late Ian Paisley in 1951, said he would protest against the Pope's visit.

Rev Ian Brown of Martyrs’ Memorial Church on the Ravenhill Road in east Belfast told the News Letter that the "only proper response to his high publicity visit is a solid protest".

He said he this was because the pontiff is "no closer to proclaiming the one true biblical Gospel - that salvation is by faith alone through Christ alone".

Ian Paisley heckled Pope John Paul II during a speech he made to the European Parliament in 1988 and held up a banner saying 'Pope John Paul II Antichrist'.

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