Addressing the thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s square during his Weekly General Audience, Pope Francis said that missionary spirit is manifested by preaching love, humanity and faith through one’s witness and not through proselytism.
Commending the lives of missionaries, Pope Francis said they gave up their lives to serve those who were most in need wherever they were. He recalled meeting this 81-year-old Italian female religious who revealed to him that she had been living in Central African Republic since she was 24.
Pope Francis noted how this sister had practically spent her whole life there, and explained that there are many more like her. He said the sister was a nurse before she came, and after studying there to become a midwife, has delivered some 3,280 babies.
“An entire life for life, for the lives of others. And like this sister, there are many, many (others): many sisters, many priests, and many religious giving up their lives to proclaim Jesus Christ. It’s beautiful to see this.” He said.
Pope Francis praised the female religious’ testimony and challenged young people urging them to decide what to do with their lives.
He said, “I tell the young people: Think about what you are going to do with your life. Think about this religious and so many like her that have given their lives. And many have died.”
The Pope also explained that when some Muslim women in Bangui want to receive care they go to the missionaries, because the sisters are good nurses who heal well and they do not offer catechesis in exchange for their care.
“The missions, they are not for proselytizing because this sister told me that Muslim women come to them because they know they are good religious nurses who care for them and do not give catechesis in return. Then, for those who want catechesis, they get it. This is what the heroic missions of the Church consist of, proclaiming Jesus Christ with their lives.” He said.
Pope Francis concluded his reflections by urging the youths to consider the possibility of becoming missionaries, “but not to proselytize.” Faith in Jesus Christ is shared first through “witness then with words,” He said.