Pope Francis: Catholic Church Is ‘Persecuted, Misunderstood, Enchained’

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Shalone Cason via Unsplash

The Church is “persecuted, misunderstood, and enchained,” Pope Francis said Wednesday, and yet “never tires of welcoming with a maternal heart every man and woman.”

In his final catechesis on the biblical book of the Acts of the Apostles, the pope urged the thousands of faithful gathered in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall to imbue their homes with the Gospel and to “make them cenacles of brotherhood, where to welcome the living Christ, who comes to meet us in every man and in every time.”

The pope has often urged Christians not to proselytize or convince non-Christians but to offer instead a consistent witness of their faith, hoping that others will feel its attraction and be drawn toward it.

“The last thing I should do is to try to convince an unbeliever. Never,” Francis told a group of Christian high school students last month. “The last thing I should do is speak. I should live my faith with consistency. And it will be my witness that will awaken the curiosity of the other who may then ask: ‘But why do you do this?’ And yes, then I can speak.”

“But listen, 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.”

Curiously, the pope offered Wednesday the apparently contradictory example of Saint Paul, who, in the pope’s words, meets with the Jews of Rome and “tries to convince them about Jesus, starting from the scriptures and showing the continuity between the novelty of Christ and the ‘hope of Israel.’”

“From morning until evening he explained the matter to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the law of Moses and from the prophets,” reads the biblical account. “Some were convinced by what he had said, while others refused to believe.”

Paul then rebukes his brother Jews for their unwillingness to believe, saying that their heart “has grown dull” and their ears “are hard of hearing” and their eyes are “shut.” At this point, he tells them he is leaving them to go preach to the Gentiles because “they will listen.”

Among the Gentiles, in fact Paul carries out his ministry “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.”

In the pope’s words, since “not everyone is convinced, he denounces the hardening of the heart of God’s people, the cause of their condemnation, and passionately celebrates the salvation of the Gentiles that are sensitive to God and able to hear the Word of the Gospel.”

“The end of Luke’s account,” Francis said, “centered on the journey of the Gospel in the world, contains and summarizes all the dynamism of the Word of God, an unstoppable word that wants to run to communicate salvation to all.”


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