Catholic World News

Pope Francis: evangelize without proselytizing

May 05, 2017

In his homily at Mass in Domus Sanctae Marthae on May 4, Pope Francis reflected on Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-40).

An angel commanded Philip to “get up and go,” and this is “a sign of evangelization,” the Pope preached, adding:

But in order to evangelize: ‘Get up and go!’ One doesn’t say: ‘Stay seated, calm, in your house’: No! In order to be faithful to the Lord, the Church should always be on its feet and on the journey: ‘Get up and go.’ A Church that does not rise up, that is not on the journey, is sick.

The Pope preached that Philip, when he joined the eunuch in his chariot, listened to him:

All men, all women have a restlessness in their hearts—[they may be] good or bad, but there is a restlessness. Listen to that restlessness. It’s not saying: ‘Go out and proselytize.’ No, no! ‘Go and listen.’ Listening is the second step. The first: ‘Get up and go’; the second: ‘Listen.’

That ability to listen: What do people feel? What does the heart of the people feel? What does it think? But do they think mistaken things? But I want to hear these mistaken things, in order to understand where the restlessness is. We all have this restlessness within. The second step for the Church is to find the restlessness of the people.

Because Philip entered the eunuch’s chariot and listened to him, Philip was then able to preach “with meekness,” the Pope continued. Philip baptized the eunuch, who then experienced the “joy of the Christian.”

“May the Lord give to all of us the grace to live the Church in this way: on our feet and going out, listening to the restlessness of the people, and always in joy,” the Pope concluded.

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  • Posted by: tbartolomeo - May. 06, 2017 11:45 AM ET USA

    I disagree with the foregoing comments especially "Once again Francis warps Scripture to his own agenda." Pope Francis was giving a homily at mass, after all, which the Church recommends and on Sundays requires. Philip was trained by the Lord to spread the "Good News" as we are called to "make disciples" in Christ's manner especially when invited as the eunuch did. Recall how John and Andrew approached Jesus and asked, "Where do you live?" and Jesus' replied, "Come and see."

  • Posted by: claude-ccc2991 - May. 06, 2017 4:56 AM ET USA

    The central element of Acts 8:26:40 is "the good news of Jesus" (v.35). I don't see anything in the Pope's comments that directly quotes that and reflects on it. One would hope that perhaps it came up somewhere in the pope's reflection that's not quoted here. Instead, the impression is given that the main point of this story is the "horizontal" human-human interaction.

  • Posted by: claude-ccc2991 - May. 06, 2017 4:48 AM ET USA

    Once again Francis warps Scripture to his own agenda. Philip didn't sit for a lengthy listening of what the eunich felt&thought. This is an image the pope tries to give. What actually happened was that Philip heard the eunuch reading Isaiah as he approached the chariot&immediately queried the eunuch about his understanding. Now, the idea of listening at length to people is good&it would be fine if the pope said that's what we should do. But to say that happened in Acts 8:26-40 simply isn't true.

  • Posted by: jplaunder1846 - May. 05, 2017 11:24 PM ET USA

    I think in the sense that it is used 'proselytizing' conveys a sense of 'buying' or 'enticing' converts rather than an intellectual conversion.

  • Posted by: feedback - May. 05, 2017 7:46 AM ET USA

    I can't figure out why "proselytizing" is such a serious sin. Dictionary synonyms of "proselytize" include the following: "evangelize, convert, seek/make converts, bring to God/Christ, bring into the fold, spread the gospel/word (to), propagandize, preach (to), win over, recruit, advocate or promote (a belief), present, spread, proclaim, propound, preach, urge, suggest, support, advocate, endorse, champion, sponsor, espouse, advance, further, assist, aid, help, contribute to, foster, boost."