In the 16th century, with the help of radicals like Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli, a horde of Christians waved goodbye to the Catholic Church. Today, there are almost as many Protestants in the world as there are Catholics.
Relations between the two factions hasn’t always been friendly, especially in the so-called melting pot of the New World. In the 19th century, the advent of Irish Catholics created a backlash of anti-Catholic prejudice. As late as the mid-20th Century, a marriage between an American Protestant and an American Catholic was considered inter-religious.
But the dynamic began to shift in the 1980s with the emergence of the Religious Right. Though the movement was spearheaded by evangelical leaders, they opened their arms to Catholics and even Mormons, who were seen as valuable allies in the fight against our nation’s “moral decline.” Animosity between the groups began giving way to cooperation. The election of Pope Francis may be the next step in bridging the divide between Catholics and Protestants. He has been called “a Pope for all Christians,” but could the growing popularity among non-Catholics make him “the first Protestant Pope?”