Did Pope Francis say that evangelization is “nonsense”?

No.

In “the interview”, Pope Francis made some negative comments about proselytism, which some people have equated with evangelization. Big mistake. As Jimmy Akin explains, the Vatican uses the term proselytism to designate forced conversions. It is not synonymous with evangelization.

No Christian can condone forced conversions.

Even Pope Benedict spoke against proselytism in Deus Caritas Est:

“Charity, furthermore, cannot be used as a means of engaging in what is nowadays considered proselytism. Love is free; it is not practised as a way of achieving other ends But this does not mean that charitable activity must somehow leave God and Christ aside. For it is always concerned with the whole man. Often the deepest cause of suffering is the very absence of God. Those who practise charity in the Church’s name will never seek to impose the Church’s faith upon others. They realize that a pure and generous love is the best witness to the God in whom we believe and by whom we are driven to love. A Christian knows when it is time to speak of God and when it is better to say nothing and to let love alone speak. He knows that God is love (cf. 1 Jn 4:8) and that God’s presence is felt at the very time when the only thing we do is to love.” (Source)

5 thoughts on “Did Pope Francis say that evangelization is “nonsense”?

  1. Yes, he did say that “proselytism is solemn nonsense”. Akin is a paid hack for the protection and preservation of AmChurch. He and friends have been doing this “The Pope REALLY said this…” schtick for 6 months now.

    Why can’t we face the reality that there’s a problem here?

    “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you”, Jesus Christ.

    …CONTRA…

    “Proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no sense. We need to get to know each other, listen to each other and improve our knowledge of the world around us. Sometimes after a meeting I want to arrange another one because new ideas are born and I discover new needs. This is important: to get to know people, listen, expand the circle of ideas.”, Pope Francis…. If this statement did not come from the Pope, instead from any bishop or priest, from here in Canada or elsewhere, would you put up the same defense?”

    The difference is obvious, factual, no spin, no mistranslation. I’ve posed this same question elsewhere: If this statement did not come from the Pope, instead from any bishop or priest, from here in Canada or elsewhere, would you put up the same defense?

    Just the facts…

  2. I respectfully disagree. Regardless of Akin’s other body of work, he presents convincing evidence on this particular claim. So while I have concerns about other things that the Holy Father said, I am not worried about this one.

    Pope Benedict also spoke against proselytism in Deus Caritas Est:

    “Charity, furthermore, cannot be used as a means of engaging in what is nowadays considered proselytism. Love is free; it is not practised as a way of achieving other ends But this does not mean that charitable activity must somehow leave God and Christ aside. For it is always concerned with the whole man. Often the deepest cause of suffering is the very absence of God. Those who practise charity in the Church’s name will never seek to impose the Church’s faith upon others. They realize that a pure and generous love is the best witness to the God in whom we believe and by whom we are driven to love. A Christian knows when it is time to speak of God and when it is better to say nothing and to let love alone speak. He knows that God is love (cf. 1 Jn 4:8) and that God’s presence is felt at the very time when the only thing we do is to love.”

  3. This Pope has been causing a lot of confusion. When one can’t be clear and everyone understand what he is saying, something is very wrong.

  4. Because the word “proselytism” has both positive and negative connotations as evidenced by standard dictionary definitions and common usage today, it is indispensable to qualify it with an adjective or a descriptive phrase as Pope Benedict XVI did.

    However, Pope Francis did not.

    I believe that the citation from the following Catholic Church document is very helpful in illustrating this. However, it does not clear up the controversy.

    “Quo Vadis?”

    DOCUMENTATION SUPPLEMENT

    CHURCH, EVANGELIZATION, AND THE BONDS OF KOINONIA
    A Report of the International Consultation between the Catholic Church and the World Evangelical Alliance*
    (1993 – 2002)

    And Pope John Paul II, on behalf of Catholics, asked God’ forgiveness for sins against unity with the following prayer:
    “Merciful Father,
    on the night before his Passion
    your Son prayed for the unity of those
    who believe in him:
    in disobedience to his will, however,
    believers have opposed one another, becoming divided,
    and have mutually condemned one another and
    fought against one another.
    We urgently implore your forgiveness
    and beseech the gift of a repentant heart,
    so that all Christians, reconciled with you and with one another,
    will be able, in one body and in one spirit,
    to experience anew the joy of full communion.
    We ask this through Christ our Lord.”[12]
    (61) Concerning “proselytism,” it should be pointed out that the understanding of the word has changed considerably in recent years in some circles. In the Bible the word proselyte was devoid of negative connotations. The term referred to someone apart from Israel who, by belief in Yahweh and acceptance of the law, became a member of the Jewish community. It carried the positive meaning of being a convert to Judaism (Ex 12:48-49). Christianity took over this positive and unobjectionable meaning to describe a person who converted from paganism. Until the twentieth century, mission work and proselytism were largely synonymous and without objectionable connotations (B 32, 33). It is only in the twentieth century that the term has come to be applied to winning members from each (B 33), as an illicit form of evangelism (P 90). At least, in some Evangelical circles proselytism is not a pejorative term; in Catholic and most ecumenical circles it is. The attempt to “win members from each other” (B 33) by unworthy means is negative and pejorative proselytism. Members of our communions have been guilty of proselytism in this negative sense. It should be avoided.
    (62) We affirm therefore “that the following things should be avoided: offers to temporal or material advantages…improper use of situations of distress… using political, social and economic pressure as a means of obtaining conversion … casting unjust and uncharitable suspicion on other denominations; comparing the strengths and ideals of one community with the weakness and practices of another community” (B 36). This issue of seeking to win members from other churches has ecclesiologically and missiologically significant consequences, which require further exploration.
    (63) Unethical methods of evangelization must be sharply distinguished from the legitimate act of persuasively presenting the Gospel. If a Christian, after hearing a responsible presentation of the Gospel, freely chooses to join a different Christian community, it should not automatically be concluded that such a transfer is the result of proselytism (P 93, 94).

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