ROME — In the first of his special monthly audiences dedicated to the Holy Year of Mercy, Pope Francis called on Christians to be “missionaries of the Gospel,” saying it should be natural to want to share good news with others.
“When we receive good news or live a good experience, it’s natural that we want to share it, to extend that joy to others,” Francis said Saturday. “It should be the same when we encounter the Lord.”
These special audiences will be staged once a month on Saturdays until the jubilee year closes on Nov. 20.
Francis also called for those who believe in Jesus to “take seriously our pledge to be Christians and to live as believers.”
The pope said that sharing the joy of encountering Christ isn’t about proselytism, but “gifting others with the joy that was given to me.”
In papal argot, “proselytism,” a concept also heavily criticized by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, means pressuring people to join the Church using coercive means. John Paul II was fond of saying that the faith must be “proposed” but never “imposed.”
“Encountering Jesus means encountering his love, a love that transforms,” Francis said.
The pope also said that God’s forgiveness is not a “private consolation, but it makes us instruments so that others can receive the same gift.”
“Let us never tire of feeling the need of His forgiveness”, Francis said, “because when we are weak, his proximity makes us strong and enables us to live with greater joy our faith.”
Since he was elected in 2013, Francis has repeatedly called on Catholics to remember that “God never tires of forgiving,” inviting them to the sacrament of Confession.
At the end of the audience, as he was greeting individual groups of pilgrims, Francis also called on believers to “defend the human life always, especially when it’s at its weakest stages.”
He also told the thousands gathered in St. Peter’s Square that he was sad over the death of a woman named Elvira, who had worked at the Santa Marta Hotel where he has lived since the beginning of his pontificate. She left behind a husband and children, and the pope led the crowd in a prayer for her and her family.
“The Lord has called her to himself,” Francis said. “I invite you to do two works of mercy: to pray for the dead and comfort the afflicted.”