Pope Francis warned Jesus Christ followers not to convince someone to become a Christian, insisting it is a “pagan” activity.
“To evangelize is not to proselytize,” the Pope told crowds gathered in the Vatican for his weekly general audience.
“To proselytize is something pagan; it is neither religious nor evangelical,” the Pope said.
“This is not about proselytism, as I said, so that others become ‘one of us’ – no, this is not Christian,” he reiterated.
“It is about loving so that they might be happy children of God,” he added.
Proselytizing, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, means to try to persuade someone to change their religious or political beliefs or way of living to your own.”
Proselytism differs from evangelization, the Pope said, which is the joyful witness of one’s experience of Christ.
“You know your contemporaries, you know that many are alone, that many do not know Jesus,” Francis told young people gathered for a national Catholic youth conference in 2019.
“Go, go and bring the Lord, go and fill your environments, even the digital, but not of convictions, not to convince, not to proselytize, but to witness to the tenderness and mercy of Jesus,” the Pope added.
The Pope then told a group of Christian high school students the following month that they should respect people of other faiths, insisting, “we are not living in the times of the crusades.”
When one of the students asked how a Christian should treat people of other faiths, the Pontiff said, “we are all the same, all children of God,” and that true disciples of Jesus do not proselytize.
“A Christian should never try to convince others of the truth of Christianity but should simply give a testimony of consistency and wait for others to ask about the faith,” he proposed.
“You must be consistent with your faith,” he said.
“It never occurred to me (and nor should it) to say to a boy or a girl: ‘You are Jewish, you are Muslim: come, be converted!’ You be consistent with your faith, and that consistency is what will make you mature. We are not living in the times of the crusades,” the Pope continued.
“The last thing I should do is to try to convince an unbeliever. Never,” he said.
“The last thing I should do is speak. I should live my faith with consistency. And it will be my witness that will awaken the curiosity of the other who may then ask: ‘But why do you do this?’ And yes, then I can speak.”
“But listen, the gospel is never, ever advanced through proselytism,” he continued.
“If someone says he is a disciple of Jesus and comes to you with proselytism, he is not a disciple of Jesus. Proselytism is not the way; the Church does not grow by proselytism,” he emphasised.
The Church grows by attraction, by witness, the Pontiff said.
“Soccer teams can do proselytism, this can be done, political parties can do it, but there should be no proselytism with the faith,” the Pope added.
“And if someone asks me: ‘But why do you do this?’ Read, read, read the Gospel, this is my faith. But without pressure.”