Symbolism or Substance: Pope and Latter Day Saint Prophet Meet before Dedication of Temple

[Peggy Fletcher Stack | The Salt Lake Tribune] For the first time, a Catholic pope and a Latter-day Saint prophet met — faith to faith and face to face.

Pope Francis and Russell M. Nelson, top leaders of separate global Christian religions, sat down together Saturday at the Vatican for a 33-minute exchange a day before the American-born faith dedicates its first temple in Rome, the cradle of Catholicism.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced the meeting between the 82-year-old Francis and the 94-year-old Nelson, early Saturday morning. M. Russell Ballard, the 90-year-old acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, attended as well.

While the historic encounter may not be as significant for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics — popes frequently give audiences to foremost religious figures — the spiritual calculus adds up to watershed recognition for the globe’s 16 million Latter-day Saints.

After their private meeting with the pope, Nelson and Ballard emerged, arms linked, at the Vatican.

“We had a most cordial, unforgettable experience with His Holiness,” Nelson said in a news release. “He was most gracious and warm and welcoming to President Ballard and me.

“What a sweet, wonderful man he is,” the Latter-day Saint president added, “and how fortunate the Catholic people are to have such a gracious, concerned, loving and capable leader.”

So what did the religious leaders discuss? Global relief, for starters, and the two religions’ mutual efforts to relieve human suffering.

[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Peggy Fletcher Stack and originally published at The Salt Lake Tribune. Title changed by P&P.]



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