National Edition

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

Published: Thursday, June 5 2014 12:00 a.m. MDT

Updated: Monday, June 9 2014 3:36 p.m. MDT

Lee also met with Cardinal George Pell, former Roman Catholic archbishop of Sydney and current prefect of the Vatican's Secretariat for the Economy, and Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family. He said his talks included a discussion on unemployment and the need to help out-of-work individuals keep and maintain hope.

Prayer breakfasts

The senator said the group had met with "30 or 40 members of the Italian parliament from every political persuasion" about the possibility of organizing similar prayer breakfasts for that body to the ones conducted in Washington.

He also met with Angelino Alfano, Italy's interior minister, who noted the 70th anniversary this week of the "D-Day" invasion of Europe and America's efforts "to save Italy from fascism," Lee said

The visit by the delegation is part of what appears to be a greater outreach by Francis to non-Catholics in an effort to spur Christian unity and interchange. While previous popes, particularly St. John Paul II, were noted for interreligious dialogue, Francis hosted a number of non-Catholic leaders at the Vatican shortly after his election last year, including General Linda Bond, who was then serving as international leader of The Salvation Army.

During his time as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis, then known as Cardinal Jose Mario Bergoglio, engaged in active interfaith dialogues with Rabbi Abraham Skorka as well as Sheik Omar Abboud, the former Islamic Center of Argentina secretary-general. Both clerics accompanied Francis to Jordan and Israel during his recent journey there.

Lee's audience with Pope Francis came more than a century after another prominent Utahn has met with the top Roman Catholic leader at the Vatican. According to Orson Whitney's History of Utah, Sen. Thomas Kearns, himself a Catholic, traveled to Rome in April 1901, where he had an audience with Pope Leo XIII and "received his blessing." Michael Kearns of Silver King Publishing and a descendant of the late senator, confirmed the account in an email that noted that Perry Heath, then-publisher of The Salt Lake Tribune, also attended the meeting.

The International Foundation is also known as The Fellowship Foundation. The nonprofit's website describes its purpose as encouraging "one another and people throughout the world to carry out the first and Great Commandment 'to love God first' and 'to love your neighbor as yourself.' This is accomplished by seeking to adhere to the teachings and precepts of Jesus."

The group is also involved in the National Prayer Breakfast held in Washington, D.C., each February. Lee spoke this year at a dinner connected to that event.

Email: mkellner@deseretnews.com

Twitter: @Mark_Kellner

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