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Bishop Palmer, pope's Pentecostal friend, dies in motorcycle accident

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Vatican City

The Pentecostal bishop who used his iPhone to film a video of Pope Francis addressing other Pentecostals died Sunday after a motorcycle accident.

Bishop Tony Palmer, whom Pope Francis referred to as his friend, was riding the motorcycle when he crashed head-on with a car traveling in the wrong lane, according to Ian Findlay, principal of Embassy Bible College in Bath, England.

Palmer, a member of the independent Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches, "was airlifted to [the] hospital and was in [the operating] theater for 10 hours, but the doctors could not save him," Findlay told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview Monday.

The bishop served as the dean of the Bible college and was "a very dear friend," Findlay said. "I'm praying the fruits of his ministry," particularly his promotion of ecumenical cooperation, will continue.

Findlay said the bishop was in his early 50s and leaves behind a wife and two teenage children. As of Monday, funeral arrangements were pending.

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Palmer, who was born in the United Kingdom and grew up in South Africa, was co-founder of The Ark Community, which describes itself as "an internet-based, interdenominational" Christian community. Previously he served as the director of the South Africa office of Kenneth Copeland Ministries, a U.S.-based Pentecostal group offering mega-prayer meetings around the world.

Pope Francis' iPhone video message, which Palmer filmed in January, was addressed to participants in a conference sponsored by Kenneth Copeland Ministries.

Addressing Palmer as "my brother, a bishop-brother" and saying they had "been friends for years," the pope spoke of his longing for Christian unity and his confidence that God would bring about the miracle of Christian unity.

"Let us allow our longing to increase so that it propels us to find each other, embrace each other and to praise Jesus Christ as the only Lord of history," the pope said.

Soon after Pope Francis' election, Palmer was interviewed for the website of Kenneth Copeland Ministries. He said he had met the future Pope Francis in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 2008 when he sought the then-archbishop's permission to work with charismatic Catholics in the city.

Palmer met the pope again in late June, along with a group of other Pentecostal and evangelical pastors. At that meeting, Pope Francis announced his intention to visit the church of another Pentecostal pastor he'd meet in Buenos Aires, Giovanni Traettino. The pope is scheduled to make a private visit July 28 to Traettino's church in Caserta, 130 miles south of Rome.

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