A pastor at a Virginia megachurch expressed disagreement with Pope Francis for the way the pontiff handled a question from a crying boy who asked him whether his atheist father is in Heaven.
The exchange between Francis and the young boy, Emanuele, took place in April at the Vatican when the pope was meeting with parishioners of St. Paul of the Cross before celebrating Mass.
The crying boy whispered a question to Francis, who then repeated it before the audience: “A short time ago, my dad died. He was an atheist, but he had all four of his children baptized. He was a good man. Is Dad in Heaven?”
Francis said as part of his answer that it is a “beautiful” thing for a son to call his father “good.”
The Roman Catholic Church leader then praised the unnamed father for baptizing his childen even though he himself wasn’t a believer, and added: “God is the One Who decides who goes to Heaven. But how does God’s heart react to a Dad like that? How? What do you think? … A dad’s heart! God has the heart of a father.
“And faced with a dad, a nonbeliever, who was able to have his children baptized and to give them that courage, do you think that God would be capable of leaving him far from Him?”
Jordan Standridge, who serves as pastor of evangelism at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield and grew up in Rome as the son of missionary parents, said in a blog post on Wednesday that Francis should have answered differently.
In his version of how he would have responded, Standridge reflected that he would comfort the boy by saying:
“I am so sorry this has happened. Anytime a loved one dies it is a tragedy that we don’t know how to deal with, since the one we love has been taken from us. My heart is breaking with you over the loss of your father. I wish I could take the pain away but I cannot. All I can do is tell you about the One who can.”
He said he would then explain to the boy that both Heaven and Hell are real places, and that the only way to end up in the former is by putting one’s faith in Jesus Christ.
As for Emanuele’s specific question, he wrote: “I wish I could tell you that your dad is in Heaven. I can’t. I can tell you that if he repented of his sin, and placed his total faith and trust in Jesus even in his last days on earth, that he is. But I’ll tell you something, wherever he is, he knows two things–that God is Holy, and that he wasn’t.”
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SOURCE: Christian Post