Pope Francis: We don’t have to be perfect to evangelize

Pope Francis stops to pray before an image of Mary and the Child Jesus during his regular weekly audience Jan. 11, 2023. (Photo by Daniel Ibanez, CNA)

By Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency

We do not have to be perfect already to live in a way that gives witness to Christ and attracts others to him, Pope Francis said at his weekly public audience Jan. 11, 2023.

Francis reflected on Jesus’ calling of St. Matthew, then a tax collector, to follow him as one of his Twelve Apostles.

“Here is the message for us: we do not have to wait until we are perfect and have come a long way following Jesus to witness to him; no, our proclamation begins today, there where we live,” he said. Speaking in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, Pope Francis emphasized that evangelication and proselytism are not the same.

“And it does not begin by trying to convince others, but by witnessing every day to the beauty of the Love that has looked upon us and lifted us up,” he said.

Francis recalled a line from a homily given by Pope Benedict XVI at a meeting of Latin American and Caribbean bishops in Aparecida, Brazil, in 2007: “The Church does not engage in proselytism. Instead, she grows by ‘attraction.’”

“Do not forget this,” Pope Francis added, calling Christians who proselytize “pagans dressed as Christians.”

The pope’s general audience message was the first in a new series of catechesis, or teachings, on apostolic zeal.