Larssons greet Benedict XVI
by IHQ news release –
Pope Benedict XVI meets the General and Commissioner Larsson during an ecumenical gathering on the day after the Pope’s inauguration. (This photograph must be credited to Arturo Mari and indicate that it is used courtesy of ‘L’Osservatore Romano.’)
General John Larsson and Commissioner Freda Larsson attended the inauguration of Pope Benedict XVI in Rome as guests of the Vatican. This was the first time a General of The Salvation Army has been present at a papal inauguration and only the second time the Archbishop of Canterbury has attended since the Reformation.
Great respect and hospitality were extended to The Salvation Army throughout the weekend visit. The General was seated on the front row during the inauguration service, also attended by Majors Massimo and Jane Paone, command leaders, Italy.
“The Sunday morning worship was a very inspiring and moving occasion,” said Larsson. “I was struck by the history and beauty of the location and the sheer joy and freedom of the estimated half a million congregation. The Pope preached a powerful, Christ-centered address using simple gospel imagery. It was pastoral and evangelical. And it was interrupted by applause again and again.”
The Pope concluded his sermon saying: “Today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you, dear young people: do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ—and you will find true life.”
More than 60 Christian leaders from Protestant and Eastern Orthodox Churches around the world were accommodated in the same hotel providing a unique opportunity for fellowship and dialogue. In addition, the General had opportunity to talk with a number of the cardinals.
The next day, the Pope met the General and Commissioner Larsson during an ecumenical gathering with Christian leaders and representatives of different faiths. The General thanked the Pope for his Christ-centered message on the Sunday and assured him of the prayers of Salvationists. The pontiff thanked the General and expressed his hope that all Christians everywhere would work together to meet the challenges of a secular society.
Commissioner Larsson commented: “We came away from this historic occasion with a sense that Christian leaders have a renewed willingness to talk to each other and build on our points of unity. The General added: ‘Cardinal Walter Kasper, who is responsible at the Vatican for ecumenical matters, spoke for us all when he commented that the things that unite us are greater than those which divide.”