Protestant churchman praises the Pope as having ‘a Christlikeness’ about him

A Presbyterian cleric has praised the Pope, saying he has a “Christlikeness” about him.

By Adam Kula
Tuesday, 26th April 2022, 1:35 pm
Updated Wednesday, 27th April 2022, 9:55 am

Rev Steve Stockman made the comments after meeting the Pope in Rome on Monday, shaking his hands, and sharing a brief exchange with him.

Rev Stockman ministers at Fitzroy Presbyterian Church in south Belfast’s university district, a church dating back about 150 years and which caters for about 350 worshippers on any given Sunday.

Rev Stockman met the Pontiff alongside Father Martin Magill, a Catholic priest working on the Falls Road.

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Rev Steve Stockman

The two churchmen together put on an annual festival called 4 Corners, featuring events from theological discussions and film screenings to knitting classes.

Writing in his online blog, Rev Stockman said he had visted Pope Francis’ private library alongside Fr Magill, saying: “Austen Ivereigh as the Pope’s biographer and co-writer had pulled some strings! Thank you brother.”

Rev Stockman wrote of the meeting: “Pope Francis has a warmth about him. He has a humility that is perhaps not expected of Popes or world leaders.

“Very quickly I sensed that all that I had thought about him was true. He has an open and gracious heart.

Steve Stockman and the Pope

“He is keen to make you at ease, to feel special. He has a Christlikeness.

“He is also funny. He had given us his written script but quickly told us we could read that later: so instead, what did we want to ask? That is a brave decision for a man of 86.

“He hands over control to whatever questions are thrown. He has to be sharp and think quickly to answer. His answers were wise and full of great Biblical content.”

He added that the Pope told them “we should send all the theologians out onto an island where they could debate the theological differences while the rest of us stayed in the real world and got on with it; that ‘it’ was very clearly the living out of the Gospel”.

Rev Stockman concluded: “I am sure many will not agree with me visiting a Pope in the Vatican. I will graciously understand and beg to differ. For me it was an honour that Pope Francis recognised the work that the 4 Corners Festival does. As the leader of the Catholic Church it was an honour to be invited into his presence.”

In 2010, Rev Norman Hamilton – then the moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, declined a chance to meet the Pope directly in London, telling the BBC that the abuse scandals within Catholicism were a factor.

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