Friday, June 6, 2014

Sen. Mike Lee, Dirk Kempthorne, Joel Osteen meet with Pope Francis at Vatican

 — A small group of political and religious leaders from the United States, including Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, met privately with Pope Francis at the Vatican today.

Part of a multiday, unofficial visit to Italy to promote ecumenical prayer and interfaith understanding, Lee was joined in the private audience by former U.S. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne; Lakewood Church pastor and televangelist Joel Osteen; Tim Timmons, a pastor and author based in Newport Beach, California; and Gayle D. Beebe, president of Westmont College, an evangelical school in Santa Barbara, California.

Lee said The International Foundation, a private nonprofit, arranged the trip.

The Utah Republican conversed with the Pope in Spanish, which is the pontiff's mother tongue, about the need for faith in Jesus Christ and to build families. Lee, who served a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, speaks fluent Spanish.

"I was told it would not only be the proper protocol, but also appreciated if I were to address him in Spanish," Lee said in a telephone interview from Rome. "The invitation to meet came from Pope Francis' desire to invite more people to come unto Jesus Christ," he added.

Lee said Francis asked his guests to pray that more people would serve and protect the family.

Ecumenical outreach

According to a Westmont College statement, the pontiff "invited the Protestant leaders to discuss the question: 'Can we find common ground in order to advance the life and ministry of Jesus so more people can experience the joy of Christian faith?'"

Lee and his wife were apparently the only members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the delegation.

"There was a very good spirit with him. I enjoyed the interaction," Lee added. "He's a very humble man."

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