ROME — Pope Francis styled anti-Christian violence around the world as a force bringing the churches closer together, saying on Friday that “for persecutors, we Christians are all one.”

The pope’s comments came to a group of Catholic charismatics, who practice a high-octane style of praise and worship associated with Pentecostal Christianity.

“Today the blood of Jesus, poured out by many Christian martyrs in various parts of the world, calls us and compels us towards the goal of unity,” Francis said. “For persecutors,” the pontiff said, such as the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Northern Iraq, “we Christians are all one!”

The pontiff referred to this as “ecumenism of blood.”

Pope Francis was speaking after greeting Pentecostal Pastor Giovanni Traettino, one of the participants of the conference. He reminded those present that the origin of their group, called the Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowships, is ecumenical.

Quoting Blessed Pope Paul VI, Francis said that Christian missionary effort will find itself “considerably diminished if those who proclaim the gospel are divided among themselves.”

The encounter with Traettino builds on a visit by Pope Francis in July to the southern Italian city of Caserta to pray with Traettino’s community. It was part of a pattern of outreach from the pontiff to Evangelicals and Pentecostals, and a continuation of a commitment to Christian unity that began when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires.

Talking with Crux back in September, Traettino said he was “grateful for the freedom and the courage with which Pope Bergoglio [Francis’ given name] handed himself over, with simplicity and weakness, to our diversity and our embrace.”

To the pastor, the high moments of the visit were Francis referring to Pentecostals as “brothers,” overcoming the regularly used term of “sect” and the apology the pontiff made, “as shepherd of Catholics,” for the persecution of this Evangelical movement.

To Traettino, this process started with the II Vatican Council, and personal friendships leaders of different Christian denominations have had, and will continue to have. “Pope John XXIII and David Du Plessis were, in many ways, the origin of the dialogue amongst Catholics and Pentecostals,” he said. [Du Plessis was a South African-born Pentecostal minister considered one of the main founders of the charismatic movement.]

For Traettino, ecumenical dialogue in the future will grow from a “fraternal communion” that has to come from a “personal conversion to Christ and the shared experience of the Holy Spirit.”

The Pentecostal believes that these two are the spiritual foundation of Christianity.

Francis and Traettino originally met through an Argentine movement called “Renewed Communion of Evangelicals and Catholics in the Spirit.” In 2006, the two men participated in a prayer service that drew 7,000 people to the Luna Park in Buenos Aires, a venue ordinarily used for boxing matches.

The future pope allowed himself to be prayed over on that occasion by a delegation of Protestant clergy, drawing fire from more conservative quarters in both the Protestant and Catholic worlds.

Catholics have at times been critical toward the Charismatic Renewal. Pope Francis himself once said that, “These people confuse a liturgical celebration with samba lessons.”

During a flight back from World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on July 28, 2013, he explained how he changed his mind. “Back at the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s, I had no time for charismatics,” the pope said.

“Now I regret it,” Francis said. “I think that this movement does much good for the church overall.”

Today the official estimate for the number of charismatic Catholics is 120 million, which would be 10 percent of the global Catholic population of 1.2 billion. In reality, however, the number is likely to be higher since in some parts of the developing world people identify with the spiritual practices and styles of worship it implies without labeling it as “charismatic.”