Argentine native and international evangelist Luis Palau considers Jorge Bergoglio, the newly elected Pope Francis, a personal friend. So, Palau says, he was especially excited yesterday to hear that Catholic cardinals had selected Bergoglio, the former archbishop of Buenos Aires, to replace Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI after his resignation.
CT spoke with Palau, who offered his perspective on Pope Francis both as an evangelist and as Bergoglio's personal friend. (CT has also gathered reactions from evangelical leaders in the United States and Argentina.)
What was your reaction when you heard that Bergoglio had been selected as pope?
It was exciting because of Argentina, because of his personality, and because of his openness toward evangelical Christians. I got kind of emotional, simply having known him.
He came in second to Pope Benedict XVI in the last election and pulled out of the vote voluntarily, because he thought, 'We shouldn't be doing this, vote after vote.' I said to him when I saw him afterward, 'What a pity! I thought I would be able to say I know the pope as my friend.' I said he'd probably get elected the next time, but he said, 'No, I'm too old.'
It was a total surprise [yesterday], because I also thought he was past the age. Since last time he didn't win, I figured he wouldn't win this time. But here we go: He got elected. He's not too old.
You count the pope as a personal friend. What can you tell me about his character—as a man, and a Christian, not just as a Cardinal?
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; ...