Pope: Church's mission is to attract people to Christ, not proselytize

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Christians are called to follow
the example of St. Therese of Lisieux, who helped draw people to Jesus by way of attraction, not
by proselytizing, Pope Francis said.

was a reminder that an authentic witness is
proclaimed through a union with Christ “in prayer, adoration and in
concrete charity, which is serving Jesus, who is present in the least of our brothers
and sisters,” he said Oct. 5 during his weekly general

Among the
estimated 25,000 in St. Peter’s Square were 33
former prisoners of the Auschwitz concentration camp, whom he greeted after the
audience and posed for pictures.

Addressing the former prisoners and Polish pilgrims
present, he said the day’s feast of St. Faustina Kowalska “reminded the
world that God is rich in mercy and that his love is more powerful than death,
than sin and every evil.”

In his main audience talk, Pope Francis reflected on
his Sept. 30-Oct. 2 visit to Georgia and Azerbaijan, which, along with his
visit in June to Armenia, fulfilled his desire to encourage the Catholic communities
in the Caucasus region, he

Recalling the Oct. 1
Mass in Tbilisi celebrating the feast of St. Therese, the patroness of the missions, the
pope said, “This is what the religious men and women I met in
Tbilisi do, as well as in Baku: They do it with prayer and charitable works. I
encouraged them to be steadfast in the faith with memory, courage and hope.”

Although both countries celebrated the 25th anniversary
of their independence from the Soviet regime, they still “face numerous
difficulties in different aspects of social life” and the Catholic Church,
in collaboration with other churches and Christian communities are called to be
“a sign of charity and human development, he said.

“In Georgia, this mission naturally passes through
the collaboration with our Orthodox brothers and sisters, who form the vast
majority of the populations,” the pope said.

Pope Francis said a “very important sign” of
this collaboration was the presence of Orthodox Patriarch Ilia II at the
airport upon his arrival as well as their meeting at Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, which houses the seamless tunic of
Jesus, a garment the pope described as a “symbol of unity of the

“This unity is
supported by the blood of so many martyrs of different Christian confessions.
Among the most tested are the Assyrian-Chaldeans in Tbilisi with whom I lived
an intense moment of prayer for peace in Syria, Iraq and in the whole Middle
East,” the pope said.

The witness of love and
unity given by religious men and women as well as Christian families in Georgia
was also witnessed in Azerbaijan. Although the majority of the population is
Muslim, he said, they share a good relationship with the small Catholic
community there and “maintain fraternal ties with Orthodox

Pope Francis said the
celebration of the Eucharist and the interreligious meeting in Baku were proof
that “faith knows how to maintain the right relationship” between
different faiths and expressed his hope that through this unity, the people of
the Caucasus may “live in peace and mutual respect.”

The Eucharist is
“where the spirit harmonizes different languages and gives the strength of
witness” which creates communion in Christ and drives Christians to
“seek an encounter and dialogue with all who believe in God, to build
together a more just and fraternal world,” the pope said.

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