Megachurch speaker and author Joel Osteen was among a group of political and religious leaders who met with Pope Francis at the Vatican last Thursday, according to Christian News Network.
According to reports, Osteen was part of a delegation organized by the International Foundation in an effort to encourage interfaith relations and ecumenicism. Utah Senator Mike Lee (R), a Mormon, Gayle Beebe, the president of the interdenominational Westmont College in California, and Pastor Tim Timmons, founder of South Coast Community Church also in California, were among those who who greeted the pope, along with Osteen.
“I just felt very honored and very humbled,” Osteen told local television station Click 2 Houston. “It was amazing. And even to go back into that part of the Vatican—there’s so much history there, the place that they took us through. You feel that deep respect and reverence for God.”
The Lakewood leader also met with other Vatican staff during his visit, including Cardinal Pietro Paroli, Secretary of State for the Vatican, and had dinner with an unspecified staff member.
Osteen told reporters that he believed the pope’s message and focus is one of unity.
“I love the fact that’s he’s made the Church more inclusive,” he said. “Not trying to make it smaller, but to try to make it larger—to take everybody in. So, that just resonates with me.”
However, other pastors have expressed concerns over the implications of Osteen’s visit.
“Joel Osteen has joined the rank of all other popular ministries in bowing his knee to the anti-Christ system, and those that blindly follow his leadership will be the first ones in line with their hand out to be marked by the beast,” Pastor Mark Herridge Sr. of Pentecostal Lighthouse Church in Livingston, Texas told Christian News Network.
“Any Protestant ministry that links up with the pope and Catholicism is betraying the sacrifice of millions of faithful Christians that have died at the hands of this brutal, dictatorial and oppressive religion that has never represented the Church of the Living God as outlined in New Testament teaching,” he said.