When white smoke appeared at the Vatican, many Mormons were glued to their televisions or computers, waiting for the decision and then to learn the identity of the new Pope. That might seem odd, since Mormons are not led by the Pope. However, Mormons and Catholics have many shared values, particularly in the areas of traditional families and opposition to most abortions. They also have a shared history of working together to care for the poor and needy, following the example of Jesus Christ.
The Mormons issued an official statement of welcome to Pope Francis:
“On behalf of the leadership and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we extend our warmest wishes to His Holiness Pope Francis and pray he will feel the peace of the Lord as he serves as pontiff of the Catholic Church.
We have been honored and pleased as our two faiths have worked together on issues of faith, morality and service to the poor and needy. We value the relationships that have been formed in these joint efforts and are grateful for the good that has been accomplished.
We look forward to pursuing together, as the Apostle Paul wrote, all things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely and of good report (see Philippians 4:8).”
Many Mormons expressed pleasure at the discovery that Pope Francis is known for staunchly supporting traditional families, anti-abortion issues, and care of those in need. He chose his name to honor St. Francis of Assisi, who is noted for his humanitarian concern for those in need.
Mormons have a great respect for Catholics, who helped keep Christianity alive in its early days. Catholic leaders are often quoted by Mormon leaders in their speeches. A search for Mother Teresa brings up forty mentions, including the fact that the Mormons issued a letter of condolence when she died, saying, “Her life of unselfish service is an inspiration to all the world, and her acts of Christian goodness will stand as a memorial for generations to come.” A number of Mormons volunteered with her programs.
Mormons and Catholics have often worked together on humanitarian programs. For example, Catholic Community Services became aware of a small orphanage in the Dominican Republic run by a husband and wife to keep little boys off the streets. They didn’t have enough food or clothing for the children and needed help from charities. Catholic Community Services contacted the Mormons and these two organizations, along with Food for the Poor, brought in a truckload of food, toys, clothing, and other supplies for the children.
When thousands of Syrian immigrants fled to Jordon to escape dangerous war conditions, Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization put out a plea for help to meet the rapidly growing need. The Mormon-run Latter-day Saint Charities joined with local Catholics and Greek Orthodox churches to put together kits for hygiene, baby care, and other issues. They worked side-by-side to fill the need.
When a typhoon led to the need for low-cost emergency housing in Cagayan de Oro City in the Philippines, Latter-day Saint Charities teamed with Catholic Relief Services to provide them. In 2011, the Immaculate Conception Church in Annandale, New Jersey co-hosted a charity concert with a local Mormon congregation to collect food for a local food pantry. The Mormons donated 25,000 dollars to Cathedral Charities for a sports program for inner-city children. They teamed with El Minuto de Dios, a Catholic charity, to provide clothing after a landslide and flooding in Columbia.
While the Mormons sponsor many humanitarian initiatives of their own, they often donate to other established organizations that already have programs in place and can more efficiently carry out the work of the money or supplies are provided to them.
Mormons have also teamed up on rare political issues and the Mormons and the Catholics in Salt Lake City, Utah, where the Mormons are headquartered, often honor each other for their mutual concerns. Two Catholic bishops spoke out against anti-Mormon bigotry following the gay marriage battle in California.
Archbishop Charles Chaput of the Catholic Archdiocese of Denver received the 2007 Colorado Family Values Award given by the Mormons for his support of strengthening traditional marriages. In March of 2013, Archbishop Alex J. Brunett of the Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle received the Family Values Award for overseeing programs that fed and housed families in need. Edmund Adamus, director of pastoral affairs at the Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster, received the 2011 UK Family Values Award.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.