By Devin Watkins
The Salvation Army is both a Protestant Christian church and an international charitable organization, whose membership numbers over 1.7 million. Known as Salvationists, members seek to bring salvation and humanitarian relief to people in need.
In his address to the delegation on Friday, Pope Francis expressed his appreciation for “the witness [Salvationists] give to the primacy of discipleship and service to the poor.”
He added that it makes them “a credible sign of evangelical love”.
The Pope told the delegation about the first lesson he ever received in ecumenism. When he was four years old, he met several members of the Salvation Army while with his grandmother.
“Their example of humble service to the least of our brothers and sisters spoke louder than any words,” he said.
Pope Francis also recalled what the previous director told him when they met in 2014: “Holiness transcends denominational boundaries.”
“The holiness that shows itself in concrete acts of goodness, solidarity, and healing speaks to the heart and testifies to the authenticity of our discipleship.”
Catholics and Salvationists, said the Pope, can work well together on this basis, cooperating in “a spirit of mutual respect, even in leading a holy life.”
Pope Francis said gratuitous love shown to others in acts of service both attracts and convinces. Young people, he noted, need that type of Christian witness, since they often lack positive examples in daily life.
“In a world where selfishness and divisions abound, the noble fragrance of genuine self-giving love can offer a much-needed antidote, and open minds and hearts to the transcendent meaning of our existence,” he said.
Service and solidarity
Finally, the Pope thanked Salvationists for caring for the homeless and marginalized in Rome, as well as for their efforts to fight human trafficking.
“Let us remember one another in our prayers and continue to work together to spread God’s love through works of service and solidarity.”