Pope: Don't proselytize, and why not to

(I have always thought that proselytizing is an unwise choice. Sort of reminds me of some sales pitch. Always thought the wiser choice was LIVE my faith, not try to sell my faith)

An Australian priest asked the pontiff for his “secret” in reaching out successfully to the secular world. Francis said in those places where the Church seems irrelevant, reduced to a subculture, the important thing is not to proselytize.

He said that proselytism is a “caricature” of spreading the Gospel, and quoted Benedict XVI to the effect that the Church can grow only by attracting others to it, by using a “language of gestures” and provoking curiosity.


Such of course does not mean do not evangelize…but is using the term “proselytize” in the more recent pejorative way.

We ARE to evangelize! Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel - as St. Paul said.

As he tells us…as Pope Benedict XVI told us …as Jesus tells us!

Yes. I was not referring to evangelizing. Just , like the Pope, proselytizing. :slight_smile:

I agree. I’ve always found that the best way to bring someone closer to Christianity in general, and in particular to Catholicism (since there’s a lot of misinformation out there that people buy into), is by living in such a way that proves the truth of Catholicism. Through the way I treat my friends and live my life, God has brought many people to, if not Catholicism, at least a better understanding of what it teaches.

The only time I generally talk about my beliefs is when people either ask me or directly challenge me, which is rather rare. Actions speak louder than words, and are extremely important when so many people are indoctrinated against Catholics with words from other people, and even words from other Catholics. Living the Gospel is one of the best ways to evangelize.

The term has been used in various ways over time. I was adding clarification.

I can’t imagine anything more cowardly. You could come across an opportunity to save someone and you don’t care enough about the person to share with them the only hope they have? cowardice. Nothing more.

Thank goodness this is not in an Islamic context. Cowards are of no use to Allah’s cause.

I agree in part. Like, what is the Pope really trying to say? That we should not share our Faith at times? I disagree.

Although I don’t like the sales pitch approach as mentioned above.

Cowards can be of great use to God. Remember He loves all His children and molds us all.

Moses himself wasn’t a good public speaker but God still used Aaron and him.

To illustrate the difference between proselytizing and evangelizing, let me explain what groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) do.

The JWs and the Mormons engage in proselytizing, and this is what it involves:

*]They have a mission to inform you that your religious beliefs are wrong and unacceptable to God.
*]The mission includes educating you on where you are wrong and what you must believe instead.
*]This program of education often includes dismissing your current way of life and the majority of your religious and ethnic customs (in exchange for Western ones).
*]The mission concludes with educating you on how to proselytize and do the same to others.

What is often most disturbing is point number 3. If you are a man with a beard, be prepared to shave it off. If you are a woman with anything more than one earring per ear, get ready to say goodbye to your jewelry. You can eat your ethnic foods, you can wear some of your ethnic dress at home, but when you worship and when you go out to proselytize you are often forced to adopt Western garb. You must also give up any ethnic and/or religious celebration and accept only their Westernized ones (as in the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses, no celebrations at all). These are but a few examples.

Evangelizing is sharing the Gospel through word or action. It involves recognizing:

*]That God has often given truths in various ways to various different cultures.
*]That the Church is enriched by diversity found in others.
*]That a journey into the Church often includes joining of things old and new.
*]That becoming Christ to the world means serving others without a judgmental or triumphalist attitude.

As such Catholics recognize that not all people are lost in the current state they are in. Many are serving God in ways that may not be completely clear to Catholics at present. Catholics share their hope with those who inquire, but do not avoid offering it even to those who might not. They recognize that neither God nor the Church is limited by denominational lines when it comes to bringing salvation to the world, and that we as Catholics cannot therefore always be sure of how our mysterious God is working to do this. We speak up when we should, we are quiet when required, but we are always examples of the Gospel. Our example can often speak louder than words, and our love is not limited to those who accept our message or our way of worship.

Evangelizing is the bringing of a message that can only add to your life, not destroy it. It recognizes the good and blesses that which needs it. And it does more than bring a message of “turn-or-burn” like proselytizing does. It involves ministering to the practical everyday needs of others out of genuine care and love for humanity.

We don’t save anyone. Jesus Christ does that. So how do we lead someone to Christ?
I think that is what the Pope is talking about.

The Holy Father is not speaking against ministries like this…


Sometimes instead of asking WWJD we should ask what did Jesus do? He founded the Catholic Church and gave it missions one of which was to go out to the world and preach the Gospel. All but one of the apostles died doing just that. Our first Pope converted 3,000 guided by the Holy Spirit using words.

Of course we should live our Faith but like much in Catholicism it is both/and. One may not be comfortable speaking the Truth of Jesus Christ and His Church and that is fine but there are others that are called to share their Faith in dialogue.

I agree! The despicable cowards who behead innocent children, Christians and other Muslims are certainly of no use to Allah’s cause!

I think the idea here is we want people to adopt the Catholic faith. Sometimes, I think a few of the faithful may feel obligated (not to be taken lightly in Catholic teaching) to preach even though the situation means the audience has a near-zero chance of adopting the Faith or even listening.

It seems to me that we’ve done well by setting examples and defending natural law as much as anything else.

I think most people are naturally drawn to some semblance of logic and order in their lives, and there is no better place for that than the Catholic Church.

Big Utopian movements whether extremely religious or secular are always so insecure with themselves that they have to flash their feathers at every turn and use the power of the state, military or both to advance their agenda and force it all on everyone—even to the point of claiming we are the ones who do that. :rolleyes:

Don’t show me doctorine and scriptures because they are ultimately empty and without meaning.
Instead, show me your practice.

Show me how your faith, understanding of your scriptures affects your practice in life. Show me how it manifests instead of giving me empty words. Let me see your peace, your joy, show me how it inspires you to be loving and compassionate. Let me on my own terms recognize that your practice bears fruit and be curious as to what is it that drives you.

Then you can start to have a real meaningful conversation.

Because until I see the practice, it really means nothing to me. All Christians read the same book, but I see it manifest in tons of different ways. At my wife’s old parish the lady running the food pantry was a force to be reckoned with and she helped to keep a lot of families afloat. The parish priest shut that program down because he wanted to focus on more “fun” ministries, especially youth ministries and seriously neglected the ministries geared towards economic assistance and ministries for the elderly. I live down the street from an evangelical megachurch. Their coffers must have millions and millions but none of that ever really reaches the significant homeless and hungry people in my area. Nope, all that money is channeled into expanding their university sized campus, the satellite campuses in wealthy affluent areas, renting Angels stadium and marketing and branding.

So I know what Christianity is, I grew up with it, around it, seen the good and bad effects it has on society. What I would like to understand is what it means to you and how you grow from that understanding.

And thereby lies the difference between Christianity and Islam.

Yes, living the Good News without a chip on my shoulder and making that preferential option for the poor… and there are many kinds of poverty.

The Jews are God’s chosen people, Christians are chosen by Christ, and in Islam; Allah chooses whom he wills. Did the same God make a mistake when he gave each of us our faith?

If you are chosen by Allah, who am I to try and change you?



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From personal experience, it seems that “proselytization” and “evangelization” are considered synonyms.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Church in Pope Francis’s Latin America has lost tens of millions of adherents. As a Church, we don’t seem to evangelize anymore. We don’t counter heretical movements, because we don’t even seem to believe that “heresy” exists anymore. When was the last time a Catholic Pontiff called for the conversion of non-Catholics to the Catholic Faith?

Matthew 23 (RSVCE)

15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you traverse sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell[a] as yourselves.

This, I think, is probably what Francis is trying to get at.

We should not merely try to argue what the right “belief” is, but demonstrate the right belief through action and devotion and with the kindness, love and understanding of our Lord.

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