Luis Palau, an Argentine-born evangelist who has in many ways taken up the mantle of Billy Graham, speaks of his friendship with Pope Francis:
One day I said to him, ‘You seem to love the Bible a lot,’ and he said, ‘You know, my financial manager [for the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires] … is an evangelical Christian.’ I said, ‘Why would that be?’ And he said, ‘Well, I can trust him, and we spend hours reading the Bible and praying and drinking maté [an Argentine green tea].’ People do that with their friends, share and pass the mate, and every day when he was in town, which was often, after lunch he and his financial manager would sit together, read the Bible, pray, and drink maté. To me, he was making a point [about his relationship with evangelicals] by telling me that: trust and friendship.
Palau predicts that Pope Francis’ facility with Evangelical-style spontaneous prayer will shape his papacy:
You know he knew God the father personally. The way he prayed, the way he talked to the Lord, was of a man who knows Jesus Christ and was very spiritually intimate with the Lord. It’s not an effort [for him] to pray. He didn’t do reading prayers; he just prayed to the Lord spontaneously. It is a sign that good things will happen worldwide in the years of his papal work.
Francis’ spontaneity—already on display in the first days of his papacy—resonates with Evangelical Protestants but is in its way deeply Catholic. As R.R. Reno observed on Francis’ election, Jesuits “break the rules,” which helps explain why Francis “took the name of the most severe critic of the papacy before Martin Luther [and] bowed to receive the crowd’s blessing.” Protestants see one of their own in the new pope, which might prompt a Catholic to say that much of what we see as Protestant can be found more fully realized and rightly oriented in the heart of the Church.