In a dialogue with Catholic high school students in Rome this weekend, Pope Francis responded to a question about how to deal with atheists and people of other faiths by saying that Christians should never proselytize — and any who do are not truly Christians.
- [Speaking of having Jewish and Muslim friends]: “We are all the same, all children of God.”
- “It didn’t occur to me, and it doesn’t have to be like, saying to a boy or a girl: ‘You are Jewish, you are Muslim: come, be converted!'”
- “We are not in the times of the crusades.”
- “In front of an unbeliever the last thing I have to do is try to convince him. Never.”
- “But listen: Never, never bring the gospel by proselytizing.”
- “If someone says they are a disciple of Jesus and comes to you with proselytism, they are not a disciple of Jesus.”
- “The Church does not grow by proselytism.”
🔦 Last year, Pope Francis told a grieving boy that his late father was in heaven, despite the fact that he was an atheist, because he had his children baptized.
The pope’s full answer (via Google translate):
Let’s go to your first. When I taught what a look and what words I had towards believing children or of other religions. But in Argentina there is a social phenomenon, which is the migratory phenomenon. After the two great wars there were waves of migration from Europe, also from Asia Minor and the Italians. He thinks that 40% of Argentines have an Italian surname, almost the other 40 Spanish. Then Poles, Russians, all … even Arabs, whom we called “Turks” because they came with the passport of the great Ottoman Empire. There is a mixture of blood, a strong mixed race in Argentina — I am the son of a migrant, and this has made a culture of coexistence. I went to public school and we always had companions from other religions. We were educated to coexist: “There is a Jew, Russian, ah — come, come! I am a friend of Russian!” They said Russian because the majority of the Jews came from Odessa, some from Poland but the majority from Odessa. Then there were some Arabs, Lebanese, Syrians — “Ah, Turkish! Come, come!” This was Muslim, this was Jewish. But we all played football together, we were all friends.
This has taught me so much, that we are all the same, all children of God — and this purifies your gaze, it makes you human. In Argentina there is a small group of closed-minded Catholics who do not want Jews, do not want Muslims, but this group … I have never liked it, is a group that is on the fringe, they have a cultural magazine but they do not have impact in society … This is the secret: You must be consistent with your faith. It didn’t occur to me and it doesn’t have to be like saying 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 in the times of the crusades. It is a bad thing but it made me suffer so much, a step of the “Chanson de Roland,” when the Christians, the crusaders had conquered the Muslims and then a line of all the Muslims was queued and the priest was in front of it and a soldier. The priest in front of the baptismal font and everyone came — read that passage — he asked: “Either the baptism or the sword.” This has happened in history! They also do it with us Christians in other parts, they are also doing it but what we did was shameful because it is a story of forced conversion, of not respecting the dignity of the person. This is why my experience was natural with people of other religions because my dad my dad’s job was an accountant and he had so many Jewish business clients and they came home, it was normal and I didn’t have this as a problem. But it must be normal. Nothing to leave them aside because they have another faith …
The first is all. In front of an unbeliever the last thing I have to do is try to convince him. Never. The last thing I have to do is speak. I have to live consistent with my faith. And it will be my testimony to awaken the curiosity of the other who says: “But why do you do this?” And yes, I can speak then. But listen: Never, never bring the gospel by proselytizing. If someone says they are a disciple of Jesus and comes to you with proselytism, they are not a disciple of Jesus. Proselytism is not done, the church does not grow by proselytism. Pope Benedict had said it, it grows by attraction, by testimony. Football teams proselytize, this can be done. Political parties, can be done there. But with faith there is no proselytism. And if someone says to me: “But why?” Read, read, read the Gospel, this is my faith. But without pressure.