Two Public Converts From Pope Francis?

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Two prominent political leaders have recently said publicly that they might convert to Catholicism, inspired by Pope Francs’ moral leadership.

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore

About two weeks ago, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore spoke at the Haas School of Business’ Dean’s Speaker Series at the University of California Berkeley on climate change. During the Q&A, the questioner asked him what he thought about Pope Francis’ expected encyclical on the environment.

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And his answer had this surprising tidbit:

I think that Pope Francis is quite an inspiring figure, really, a phenomenon. I’ve been startled by the clarity of the moral force he embodies. […] I’ve said publicly in the last year – I was raised in the Southern Baptist tradition – I could become a Catholic because of this Pope, he is that inspiring to me. And I know the vast majority of my Catholic friends are just thrilled to the marrow of their bones that he is providing this kind of spiritual leadership.

You can watch the full context of his remarks here, starting at 51:12.

How serious is Gore? He appears to be very sincere. It’s of course impossible to read someone’s heart, and from this short statement it’s not clear if Gore is simply inspired by certain parts of Pope Francis’ (and the Church’s) moral teachings, or if he’d really be willing to commit to the whole thing.

But conversion always starts somewhere and the remark is noteworthy either way.

Cuban President Raúl Castro

Raul Castro (left) with his arm around Ernesto "Che" Guevara in 1958.
Raul Castro (left) with his arm around Ernesto “Che” Guevara in 1958.

In the last few days, Pope Francis met with 85 year old Cuban President Raúl Castro for about an hour at the Vatican. Pope Francis was credited with helping to broker a deal to open up relations between Cuba and the U.S. in the last few months, and last month the Vatican announced that the pontiff would make a stop in Cuba this coming September before his trip to the U.S..

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After the meeting, Castro opened up about how Francis had inspired him – the leader of a communist state – to reconsider the Catholic faith:

When the pope goes to Cuba in September, I promise to go to all his Masses, and with satisfaction. I read all the speeches of the pope, his commentaries, and if the pope continues this way, I will go back to praying and go back to the church, and I’m not joking.

Regarding Pope Francis himself, Castor said he was “very impressed by his wisdom, his modesty, and all his virtues that we know he has.”

But how would his renewed interest in the Catholic faith square with the atheism of the Communist party in Cuba? He explained: “I am from the Cuban Communist Party, that doesn’t allow (religious) believers, but now we are allowing it, it’s an important step.”

As mentioned earlier, it’s impossible to read a person’s heart, but taken at face value Castro’s words appear serious.

Wouldn’t it be incredible if, 60 years after Cuba became an officially atheist country and engaged in terrible persecution of the Church, the president of Cuba was converted to Christ in the Catholic Church?

We can only pray!

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