Pope Francis met with Russell M. Nelson, the head of the Mormon Church, ushered in a new era of contact between the two faiths as the leaders met, for the first time, in the Vatican on March 9.
This was the first time that a pope had met with a leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which came only a day before Nelson was set to dedicate the first Mormon temple in Rome.
The warming of relations was welcomed by Francesco Di Lillo, the director of the European Union Office for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Di Lillo said in an interview that a number of good examples exist which show that relations between the Vatican and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are improving and cited the dozens of humanitarian projects with Catholic organisations around the globe as proof of their better ties.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is set to open a three-story, 3,800-square-foot in Rome. The temple will serve over 23,000 Church members living in Italy and in neighbouring countries. There are currently more than 160 Mormon temples operating worldwide, including 12 in Europe.
“With regards to the Rome Temple, since the early stages of this project, we reached out to the Catholic Church in a spirit of friendship, and shared why temples are so important to us, and what the Rome Temple would mean to thousands of Italian members. Their feedback has always been one of openness and curiosity, which developed into further friendships and strong relationships,” said Di Lillo.
After meeting with Pope Francis, both Nelson and Ballard said “We talked about our mutual concern for the people who suffer throughout the world and want to relieve human suffering. We talked about the importance of religious liberty, the importance of the family, our mutual concern for the youth [and] for the secularization of the world and the need for people to come to God and worship Him, pray to Him and have the stability that faith in Jesus Christ will bring in their lives.”
According to Nelson and M. Russell Ballard, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and who also joined the talks with the Pople, said they spoke of the close relations the two faiths have in working together on humanitarian projects.
“We explained to His Holiness that we work side by side, that we have projects with Catholic Relief Services all over the world in over 43 countries. [We’ve] been shoulder to shoulder as partners in trying to relieve suffering. He was very interested in that.”
Elder Alessandro Dini-Ciacci, also attended the meeting saying it was inspiring to witness two religious leaders meet together. “This is beautiful to witness and something we can sure learn from in our association with people of other faiths.”
Nelson has engaged with Roman Catholic prelates since becoming the leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 2018.