Speaking to crowds gathered in the Vatican for his weekly general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis said trying to convince someone to become a Christian is a “pagan” activity unworthy of followers of Christ.
“To evangelize is not to proselytize,” the pope said. “To proselytize is something pagan, it is neither religious nor evangelical.”
“This is not about proselytism, as I said, so that others become ‘one of us’ – no, this is not Christian,” he added. “It is about loving so that they might be happy children of God.”
“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 following month, the pope told a group of Christian high school students that 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 last thing I should do is to try to convince an unbeliever. Never… 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.”
For a dissenting view, see Matthew 28:19-20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”