Southern Baptist meets with Catholic leaders at Vatican

Dr. Timothy George, dean of the Beeson School of Divinity at Samford University has been a Southern Baptist his whole life.

George recently had a once in a life-time experience with Catholic bishops and Pope Benedict XVI, after he was invited to be a fraternal delegate in the synod of bishops, called by the pope.{}

He's the first Southern Baptist to receive such an invitation.

"Here's a place where Catholics, and Baptists and Evangelicals, other Protestants can come together,stand together, and speak out together for the common good," says George.It is the common good that George and the synod of Catholic bishops want to work toward. "We were there as an expression of willingness of the Catholic church to be open toward the other expressions of the Christian faith. And to be more inclusive in the way which this work was carried out," George says.George spent three weeks with the synod in the Vatican, discussing the challenges that Christians face in the modern world. Including religious persecution.

"Secularism, relativism and we've seen that empending on religious freedoms of churches here in our own country," George says. "But also around the world. During the synod, we had to stop and hear reports about church bombings in Nigeria, about the slaughter of Christians in Syria."For years, Baptists and Catholics were at odds with each other's beliefs. Something George acknowledges still happens. He explains, "Actually, hostility has characterized our relationship for a long, long time and there's still placesin the world where that is still true today. So this was a step forward in seeking together the common mind of Christ."George says the differences between Catholics and Baptists aren't swept under the rug. But, the two faiths do share common ground, that can bring them closer. "What draws us together is our common faith in Jesus Christ, and the closer we come to Jesus Christ,the closer we come to one another," George says.Now, George is taking his experience in Rome back to Alabama. Within Samford's Beeson School of Divinity. "We need to be focusing our efforts on advancing the cause of Christ. And spreading his message of love, and grace, and peace," says George.