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Evangelization requires building relationships with everyone, Pope says

May 08, 2013

Pope Francis drew a sharp distinction between evangelization and proselytism in his homily at a weekday Mass on May 8.

The Church told the congregation at the Domus Sanctae Marthae that the Church “does not grow by means of proselytizing.” Instead, he said, the faith is spread “by attraction, by witnessing, by preaching.”

“A Christian must proclaim Jesus Christ in such a way that He is accepted,” the Pope said. Reflecting on the day’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, which told of St. Paul’s preaching at the Areopagus, he said that “St. Paul was a real ‘pontifex’—a builder of bridges and not of walls.”

Evangelization requires building bridges, to meet people wherever they are, the Pope continued. He emphasized that evangelization entails a willingness to listen to everyone, to become acquainted and establish relationships with everyone. This was the way Jesus preached, he observed. The Pope recalled that as child, he sometimes heard Catholics say that they could not visit certain neighbors because they were not married in the Church, or were socialists or atheists. That attitude, he said, “was a defense of the faith, but it was one of walls.” In contrast, he said, “The Lord built bridges.”


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