Rome (Agenzia Fides) - The proclamation of the Gospel "is not making proselytism". The Church grows "for attraction". And to exercise the attraction that can change and convert hearts are not our "apologetic explanations" and our efforts to "convince" others with words and reasoning, but only the Holy Spirit that "works" in the witness of those who live the Gospel. This was repeated by Pope Francis, in an answer released during the dialogue with the journalists present on the flight that brought him back from Bangladesh to Rome. In just a few words, Pope Francis reiterated the dynamic with which the Gospel is communicated, and which also characterizes every authentic missionary experience.
During the flight, a French journalist remarked that "some are opposed to inter-religious dialogue and evangelization" and asked the Pope to indicate what was in his opinion, the "priority" between evangelizing and dialogue for peace, considering also the fact that "to evangelize means bringing about conversions that provoke tension and sometimes provoke conflicts between believers".
Pope Francis, in his reply, confirmed that the sacramental modality with which faith is communicated makes any false contrast between evangelical proclamation and openness to dialogue with all artificial, including those belonging to great traditions and religious communities. "First of all", the Pope remarked, introducing a distinction dear to him, "evangelizing is not proselytizing". The Church - added the current Bishop of Rome - grows not for proselytism but for attraction, that is for testimony, this was said by Pope Benedict XVI. Evangelization - continued the Successor of Peter is "living the Gospel and bearing witness to how one lives the Gospel, witnessing to: the Beatitudes, giving testimony to Matthew 25, the Good Samaritan, forgiving 70 times 7 and in this witness - emphasized Pope Bergoglio - the Holy Spirit works and there are conversions, but we are not very enthusiastic to make conversions immediately. "Conversion is not the effect of insistent propaganda, but the work of the Holy Spirit. If conversions take place - the Pope continued - they represent "the answer to something that the Spirit has moved in the heart before the witness of the Christians".
To give a concrete image of how the liberation brought by Christ is announced and offered to everyone, Pope Francis recounted the answer he gave to a young man who in Krakow, on the occasion of World Youth Day had asked him for suggestions on what to say to an atheist university companion to convert him: "I told him: the last thing you have to do is "say" something. You live your Gospel and if he asks you why you do this, you can explain why you do it. And let the Holy Spirit activate him. This - concluded the Pope - is the strength and the meekness of the Holy Spirit in the conversion. It is not a mental convincing, with apologetics, with reasons, it is the Spirit that makes the vocation. We are witnesses, witnesses of the Gospel". Pope Francis recalled that in Greek the definition of "witness" coincides with that of "martyr", and the testimony of the work of grace can manifest itself with "every day martyrdom, martyrdom also of blood, when it arrives". Then returning to the request to indicate what is the priority between evangelization and dialogue for peace, the Pope concluded that "when you live with testimony and respect, you make peace. Peace starts to break down in this field when proselytism begins". (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 4/12/2017)