Tag Archives: Pope Francis


BLOG 509

March 8, 2021


Each week Robert L. Wise, Ph.D., explores the Middle Eastern situation, ranging from Egypt through Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the surrounding area. Wise first traveled to Israel and the neighboring countries in 1968. Two of his sons taught in Jordan and Lebanon universities. Wise presents an objective view of the behind the scenes situation in these countries.


Many of this blog’s  readers are aware that we knew Jorge Mario Bergoglio before the Holy Father became Pope Francis. From out of this relationship, his Holiness ask me to be his Apostolic Representative for Christian Unity, a role I have served in ever since. I know his devotion in the quest for world-wide unity. Consequently, I closely follow what happens in the Vatican. The Pope’s historic  trip to Iraq was certainly at the top of the list of highly significant acts.

Here’s some of what occurred in Iraq.

Pope Francis met Saturday with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, one of the most senior clerics in Shiite Islam, in Iraq’s holy city of Najaf to deliver a joint message of peaceful coexistence, urging Muslims to embrace Iraq’s long-beleaguered Christian minority. After his historic meeting with Pope Francis on Saturday, Iraq’s top Shiite cleric affirmed that religious authorities have a role in protecting Iraq’s Christians and said they should live in peace and enjoy the same rights as other Iraqis.  Pope Francis thanked Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and the Shiite people for having “raised his voice in defense of the weakest and most persecuted” during some of the most violent times in Iraq’s recent history. He said al-Sistani’s message of peace affirmed “the sacredness of human life and the importance of the unity of the Iraqi people.” The Vatican said the historic visit was a chance for Francis to emphasize the need for collaboration and friendship between different religious communities.

In a statement issued by his office after the meeting, al-Sistani affirmed that Christians should “live like all Iraqis, in security and peace and with full constitutional rights.” He pointed out the “role that the religious authority plays in protecting them, and others who have also suffered injustice and harm in the events of past years.”

For Iraq’s dwindling Christian minority, a show of solidarity from al-Sistani could help secure their place in Iraq after years of displacement and, they hope, ease intimidation from Shiite militiamen against their community.

The historic meeting in al-Sistani’s humble home was months in the making, with every detail painstakingly discussed and negotiated between the ayatollah’s office and the Vatican.

Al-Sistani wished Francis and the followers of the Catholic Church happiness, and thanked him for taking the trouble to visit him in Najaf, the statement said. Al-Sistani is a deeply revered figure in Shiite-majority Iraq and his opinions on religious and other matters are sought by Shiites worldwide.

While such symbolic gestures for peace can have long range consequences. Perhaps, no where in the world is reconciliation needed more than in the Middle East. The Pope’s visit while surrounded by danger was a sweeping gesture for peace.

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Filed under Iraq, The Middle East, World


BLOG 352 June 12, 2017


            It’s a little bumpy writing this blog as I am flying over the Alps, returning from Rome. For the past week, I’ve been in audiences with Pope Francis and involved in discussions on Church unity.  Pope Francis has a vision for “unity without uniformity.” He recognizes that the wide diversity of belief and convictions that exist today cannot become one, but at the same time we can still, as he puts it, “learn to walk together.” My relationship with the Pope is an example of this vision because I am a Protestant Archbishop and he is the leader of the Roman Catholic Church. Because of these recent conversations, I am sending this one message through both my Middle East and Miracles channels.

Following the death of my fellow bishop and dear brother Tony Palmer, the Pope asked me to take his place as his Apostolic Representative for Christian Unity. My task is to work to bring unity between  Catholics, Protestant, and Jews. I continue in this mission in addition to writing books and blogs such as this one.

Last week, I was in a discussion with Pope Francis when he made a surprising observation. He noted that we are now in World War III which is unfolding in many  different places at the same time; significantly different from World War II.  I was taken back by his description of worldwide conflicts as a singular war. I ask him how Christians might respond to this conflict and he said, “Pray! Pray without ceasing. Because peace is a gift from God… pray.”

I reflected on the simplicity of this response. Was the matter really this simple? Just pray? And then I remembered an irony, not often examined. When my wife Margueritte was a girl, she attended a parochial school.  The Sisters had the children pray at least once every day for the conversion of the Soviet Union. Surely a nice, but ineffective idea. Nevertheless, Margueritte and her friends prayed fervently everyday for the end of atheistic Communism.

Of course, you know what happened. Almost without fanfare, the Soviet Union collapsed, the Berlin Wall fell, and atheism in Russia was defeated. No one paused to reflect on an unexpected factor. Little children as well as their parents praying without ceasing for an end to the Soviet system and atheism.

Critics will scoff and skeptics will sneer, but the facts remain the facts. Little children prayed for peace and it came. The Pope’s response to my inquiry had significant historic backing. Rather than simplistic, it was to the point in reflecting on the need of the hour.

In these past ten days while I was in Rome, we had terrorist attacks in England and France. Innocent people were killed in this undeclared World War III. Is it not time for us and our churches to pray for peace?

I believe the key phrase is pray without ceasing. I don’t want you to read this blog and then set it aside. My hope is that you decide to utter daily prayers for peace in our time. You will be doing far more than you ever thought possible.

The time to start is this moment.

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Filed under Bible Lands, Catholics, middle east


BLOG 271 SEPTEMBER 21, 2015

Readers of this blog know that I have been traveling in Israel and the Middle East since 1968. I have two sons who were college professors in Jordan and Lebanon. In addition, I have many friends and colleagues in Israel. This week I am shifting from my usual views on the Middle East struggles because of the forthcoming arrival of the Pope in America. What you may not know is that Pope Francis ask me to be his envoy to spread the message that unity without uniformity is now possible between Roman Catholics, Protestants, AND Jews. Asking me to take the title “Apostolic Representative for Christian Unity,” Pope Francis directed me to spread the message that people who hold different opinions and convictions can still live and work together in unity. We can be one while having diverse perspectives.

Much to my surprise, I have found that the message of reconciliation is not universally received. Both Protestants and Roman Catholic leaders and members bristle over this message. Many will be surprised to discover that when Pope Francis is in Philadelphia this week, he will dedicated a new piece of sculpture called “Synagoga and Ecclesia” on the campus of St. Joseph’s University. The sculpture portrays two friends sitting together in harmony studying their sacred texts both with eyes open and recognizing the deep historical connection between the synagogue and the church.

Several week ago, I proclaimed this message of reconciliation on an internet and television recording for the Jesus Alliance’s emphasis on unity. Much to my chagrin, I was plunged into a maelstrom of disunity. Using all kinds of excuses for their dislike of my statements, the bottom line was that these people don’t like the idea of unity with Judaism. They were totally out of touch with where the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church actually are today.

I was in Bari, Italy the day the Roman Catholic Church signed an agreement with the Lutheran Church in Europe fully accepting Martin Luther’s position on Justification by Faith.

The Pope told me that this document ended all warfare between Catholics and Protestants.

Well, it ended the theological war, but it has not stopped the hostility that still exists in and with individuals today. Any student of history knows that the Church was the major source of religious anti-Semitism. During the centuries behind us, the Church provided the background for other forms of anti-Semitism expressed economically, socially, and racially. In turn, the Jewish community became distrustful and wary of the world beyond their boundaries. The late American Rabbi Leon Klenicki, a pioneer in interreligious dialogues, said about this problem, “Christianity must overcome the triumphalism of power, Judaism the triumphalism of pain.”

Friends, we are in a new age! We can overcome.

The Church is now part of the solution of stopping this animosity and strife. Pope Francis has expressed a “yes” to the Jewish roots of Christianity and an irrevocable “no” to anti-Semitism. His call is for rediscovered friendship while we maintain our different opinions and convictions. The time has come for all Christians of all persuasions to join this contemporary expression of unity.


Filed under America, Catholics, Judaism, middle east


RobertandPopeFrancis-webMy blogs focus on the Middle East and clarifying the on-going politics of the major countries in the region. I attempt to give a balanced view of events apart from personal concerns or vested interests. However, I have just returned from an important trip to Rome and a private audience with the Pope. Anyone interested in world peace and unity among previously hostile groups would be interested in my conversations with his Holiness. Consequently, I want to share with you the following press release from the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches.

Pope Francis contacted Bishop Tony Palmer and Archbishop Robert L. Wise of the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches asking them to come to Rome for a private audience and discussion of the Pope’s quest for unity and restoration of relationships between Roman Catholics and the Protestants. Archbishop Wise and Bishop Palmer also huddled with the Vatican’s office of Ecumenical Relations to discuss greater unity. Wise is a resident of Oklahoma City.

Archbishop Wise was former head of the Communion’s office of Ecumenical Relationships before turning leadership over to Bishop Palmer who lives in England. The CEEC knew Archbishop Jose Marie Bergoglio before his election and becoming Pope Francis. Both Palmer and Wise know him as friend while Pope Francis is a spiritual father to Bishop Palmer.

Archbishop Wise said, “the Pope is a gentle, gracious man with a unique gift of humility. His Holiness has a profound spiritual sensitivity and listens carefully to the leading of the Holy Spirit. We sat together and talked as friends.”

The tension between Catholics and Protestants positions was ended with the Vatican’s acceptance of Martin Luther’s doctrine of Justification by Faith. Both Wise and Palmer were present in Bari, Italy when this was publically proclaimed. Wise said, “The world should know the battle is over. We can love each other as Christians and stand shoulder to shoulder. Brotherhood now exists.”

Wise and Palmer met the Pope in his private residence behind the Cathedral of St. Peter’s in Vatican City. Earlier Bishop Palmer released a video tape of the Pope expressing his love and desire for unity with all Christians through the internet that was seen across the world. Archbishop Wise said, “A new day is at hand for the entire world. We rejoice in the Pope’s desire that we join hands in love and unity. Our task is to make sure the entire church understands that we stand at a new place in history.”

This press release reflects the Vatican’s concern to create a world-wide condition in which peace and unity help create a new environment for hope that struggling and warring parties can find new agreement. I believe it is worthy of our attention.


Filed under Catholics, Christians, Peace, Travels