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Pope visits Roman parish, distinguishes witness from proselytism

January 16, 2017

On the afternoon of January 15, Pope Francis made a pastoral visit to the Chiesa di Santa Maria a Setteville, a parish built in 1973 on the outskirts of Rome.

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The Pope spent 10 minutes visiting Father Giuseppe Berardino, 50, who is confined to bed and no longer able to speak because of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The Pope administered the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.

The Pope also heard four confessions and spoke met with various groups of parishioners. In response to question from a young person, he spoke of trials related to faith:

Sometimes, I think of how in some moments, faith dropped so much that I could not find it and I lived as if I had no faith. Then, one finds faith again. The ups and downs of life also shock us at first, and that moves you and makes you lose some faith, but then as time goes by you find it again, see? … There are dark days, days all [plunged in] darkness—even I have walked for days like that in my life as well. Only, be not afraid: pray and be patient, and then the Lord shows up, makes us grow in faith and makes you go forward.

In response to another question, the Pope distinguished proselytism from witness. The former, which he cautioned against, consists in saying to a nonbeliever, “You must believe this, because, because, because,” and “explaining all things.” Instead, he said, Christians should witness with their lives, and when nonbelievers—prompted by the Holy Spirit—ask questions, at that point Christians should offer explanations.

During his homily, the Pope also stressed the importance of witness. Reminding the parishioners that the apostles, too, were sinners, the Pope warned against gossip about others’ failings.

“The apostles were not gossipers: they did not speak ill of others, did not speak badly of each other,” he said. “In this they were good.” He said: “Do you want a perfect parish? Then, no gossip.”


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  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Jan. 18, 2017 10:40 AM ET USA

    The Pope offers here a good distinction between proselytism and witness--right on the mark. In his example of proselytism, he shows that this error reflects an erroneous choice by the will: "You must believe because I say so." Instead, true witness proceeds by way first of the intellect, then of the will. For example, "What do you have to lose by choosing to follow Christ? If you say 'nothing,' then here is what the Church has to offer that will bring you closer to Him and His ways."

  • Posted by: bernie4871 - Jan. 17, 2017 9:38 AM ET USA

    I really do not think St. Paul would know what P Francis is talking about in re Spreading he Faith. He did not just go somewhere and find a place to stay and enjoy the neighborhood and absorb the culture. He preached about Salvation, the importance of Baptism and the existence of Hell.