Speaking to a youthful audience in Umbria on October 6, Pope Francis repeated his rejection of proselytizing as an effective means of communicating the gospel. A Church grows, he said, because the testimony of the People of God is attractive—not because of proselytizing. He urged the young people who sat at his feet to “come out of the self” and to go towards “the true peripheries of life.”
I think I get the message. First, to clear up any confusion following his “proselytizing” remarks last week, Pope Francis distinguishes between evangelization, which is a cheerful witness to the good news of the Gospel as evidenced in your life, and proselytizing, which is a pushy preaching.
Speaking at the end of his visit to Assisi, hometown of his namesake, Pope Francis encouraged the young and all people to be witnesses of the faith:
“In the name of St Francis, I say to you: I haven’t gold or silver to give you, but something much more precious, the Gospel of Jesus. Go forward with courage!… Be witnesses of the faith with your life: Bring Christ into your homes, proclaim him among your friends, welcome him and serve him in the poor.”
Addressing the contemplative sisters who were also present, he urged them to center their lives on Jesus, and not only on the asceticism and penitence of cloistered life. Jesus must be, the pope said, “…at the center of your life, of your penance, of your community life, of your prayer and also of the universality of prayer.”
Cloistered sisters, he reminded them,
“are called to have great humanity, a humanity like that of Mother Church, to be human, to understand the things of life, to be people who know how to understand human problems, who know how to forgive, who know how to ask the Lord on behalf of others.”