This weekend, Pope Francis spoke to Catholic high school students about how to reach nonbelievers, stressing that Christians should live their faith out loud rather than trying to try to coerce people to convert, invoking the crusades as a time of great shame.
“In front of an unbeliever, the last thing I have to do is try to convince him. Never. The last thing I have to do is speak,” the pontiff said, according to Disrn. Instead, he stressed, “I have to live consistent with my faith. And it will be my testimony to awaken the curiosity of the other who says: ‘But why do you do this?’ And yes, I can speak then.”
“Never, never bring the gospel by proselytizing,” he said later. “If someone says they are a disciple of Jesus and comes to you with proselytism, they are not a disciple of Jesus.”
Pope Francis invoked the crusades and conversion by the sword, calling it “shameful” and noting that Christians across the globe are similarly wrongly killed for their faith.
“We are not in the times of the crusades,” he said. “… ‘Either the baptism or the sword.’ This has happened in history! They also do it with us Christians in other parts, they are also doing it but what we did was shameful because it is a story of forced conversion, of not respecting the dignity of the person.”
The Holy Father said he first learned of the principle of “coexistence” back in Argentina amid mass migration.
“There is a mixture of blood, a strong mixed race in Argentina — I am the son of a migrant, and this has made a culture of coexistence,” he explained. “I went to public school and we always had companions from other religions. We were educated to coexist: ‘There is a Jew, Russian, ah — come, come! I am a friend of Russian!’ They said Russian because the majority of the Jews came from Odessa, some from Poland but the majority from Odessa. Then there were some Arabs, Lebanese, Syrians — ‘Ah, Turkish! Come, come!’ This was Muslim, this was Jewish. But we all played football together, we were all friends.”
“This has taught me so much, that we are all the same, all children of God — and this purifies your gaze, it makes you human,” Pope Francis said. “In Argentina there is a small group of closed-minded Catholics who do not want Jews, do not want Muslims, but this group … I have never liked it, is a group that is on the fringe, they have a cultural magazine but they do not have impact in society.”
“But listen: Never, never bring the gospel by proselytizing. If someone says they are a disciple of Jesus and comes to you with proselytism, they are not a disciple of Jesus,” the pontiff said.
Pope Francis has repeatedly focused on the dignity of each human life. Last summer, for example, the pope compared aborting children for birth defects to Nazi eugenics. The Daily Wire reported:
“I have heard that it’s fashionable, or at least usual, that when in the first months of pregnancy they do studies to see if the child is healthy or has something, the first offer is: let’s send it away,” the Pope said, according to CNN, which appeared shocked by the news that the Pope is, indeed, a faithful member of the Catholic Church and opposed to the practice of abortion which the Church believes ends a human life.
“I say this with pain. In the last century the whole world was scandalized about what the Nazis did to purify the race. Today we do the same, but now with white gloves,” he continued.