Beebe Visits the Vatican, Meets with Pope

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

Westmont President Gayle D. Beebe and 14 North American Protestant leaders will meet privately with Pope Francis on Thursday, June 5, at the Vatican. Beebe, representing Christian higher education in the ecumenical conversation, will be joined by politicians, theologians and pastors. Beebe will be the only college president in the group.

The pope 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?”

President Gayle D. Beebe

President Gayle D. Beebe

“Recently, Pope Francis has clearly stated that he wants to invite Christians everywhere to seek unity in Christ,” Beebe says. “His recent trip to the Holy Land included a visit with Bartholomew, patriarch of the Orthodox Church. Why does he desire to dissolve the long factions dating back hundreds of centuries? He believes that our post-Christian world has developed not simply indifference to Christianity but outright hostility, which corrodes the life-giving power of the Gospel. If we are to combat it, we will have to learn how to work together.

“Of course, this appeal is not new. Catholics and Protestants in America have been working together for decades. But the desire that we do so as equals and not as adversaries is new.”

Earlier in the week, the group met with Vatican staff members, toured the Vatican and attended the Convocation of Renewal at Olympic Stadium in Rome.

Vatican City

Vatican City

Before he left, Beebe held a 90-minute conversation with five Westmont faculty members to explore the pope’s question. Video excerpts of the discussion and reflections are available at

Before coming to Westmont in 2007, Beebe led Spring Arbor University in Michigan for seven years. He earned his doctorate in the philosophy of religion and theology at Claremont Graduate School and previously served as dean of the Haggard School of Theology at Azusa Pacific University. An active scholar, he coauthored “Longing for God: Seven Paths of Christian Devotion” with Richard Foster and served as senior editor with Dallas Willard for the “Life with God Spiritual Formation Bible.” His most recent book is “The Shaping of an Effective Leader: Eight Formative Principles of Leadership.”


  1. There needs to be a clearer, more upfront, extensive offering to the public of Westmont’s dedication (or lack there-of) to Israel’s existence.

  2. Jennifer (Rodgers) Brink says

    I am so grateful to hear that Dr. Beebe and other members of the Westmont faculty are discussing ways to seek common ground between Protestants and Catholics. Although I had not yet converted to Catholicism during my time at Westmont, I did not feel that it was a very welcoming place to Catholics. One of the reasons I have felt so disconnected from Westmont following my graduation is because I feel that the institution does not support who I am, specifically my Catholic faith.

    I look forward to hearing the reflections from the panel and to seeing how this desire to come together to “advance the life and ministry of Jesus” unfolds on the campus of Westmont.

  3. I’ve followed some of the post-Vatican visit news including the KEYT interview of Dr. Beebe where he says that the pope is “cool.” Westmont also sent me to the Vatican a number of years ago on a Europe Semester led by Dr. Frank Hieronymus and his effervescent wife Helen. Nobody in our group, that I can recall expressed disappointment over not meeting the pope, and why should we? Catholicism is a false religion from which protestants (by our very name) departed via the “Reformation.” Perhaps there have been cosmetic changes in the Catholic Church more recently, but their essence hasn’t changed. They still practice idolatry on a massive scale (pun intended). The Mass involves transubstantiation which is when the Priest prays and asks God to change the bread into Jesus. So this alleged “miracle” occurs worldwide millions of times every week, orchestrated by Pope Francis who President Beebe so desired to meet. It is not a miracle at all, it is a sham. I could delineate dozens of idolatrous and anti-Biblical aspects of Catholic doctrine and practice, but suffice it to say that the only miracle is that President Beebe is somehow still the president of what used to be an evangelical Christian college.