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Vatican Defends Proselytizing

Vatican Defends Proselytizing

Publication: IslamOnline.net
Date: December 14, 2007
URL: http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?c=Article_C&cid=1196786273791&pagename=Zone-English-News/NWELayout

The Roman Catholic Church on Friday, December 14, defended its "right and duty" to spread its message to non-Christians and stressed the importance to avoid "undue pressure" to convert.

Evangelization is "an inalienable right and duty, an expression of religious liberty," read the "Note on Some Aspects of Evangelization" document, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters.

The Vatican said the 19-page document had been made necessary to contrast notions that attempts to convince others of the primacy of Christianity or Catholicism was a limitation of their freedom.

"There is today a growing confusion which leads many to leave the missionary command of the Lord unheard and ineffective," said the document, which is endorsed by Pope Benedict XVI.

The document was written by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which Pope Benedict headed until his election as pontiff in 2005.

Evangelization by Pentecostal and evangelical missionaries has angered Muslims.

Last October, Gordon Showell-Rogers, the General Secretary of the European Evangelical Alliance (EEA), called for proselytizing Muslims across Europe, considering Muslim immigration into the continent is an "evangelistic opportunity."

Germany-based Evangelical Alliance distributed in the last holy fasting month of Ramadan calendars that contained prayers for Muslims to be guided to Christianity.

And in July, the private secretary of Pope Benedict XVI of the Vatican warned against an "Islamized Europe" and urged defense of Europe's "Christian roots."

The pontiff himself drew international criticism last year after indirectly saying that Islam was violent.

No Pressure

The document, which also invited non-Catholic Christians to convert, said spreading the world of the gospel "naturally requires the avoidance of any undue pressure."

"To lead a person's intelligence and freedom in honesty to the encounter with Christ and his Gospel is not an inappropriate encroachment, but rather a legitimate endeavor and a service," it said.

"The incorporation of new members into the Church is not the expansion of a power group, but rather entrance into the network of friendship with Christ which connects heaven and earth, different continents and age. It is entrance into the gift of communion with Christ ...," it added.

The Vatican reminded Christians that Christianity has always involved evangelization to non-Christians, even at the price of martyrdom.

Proselytizers traditionally eye troubled and disaster-stricken Muslim areas like Iraq, Sudan's Darfur and Indonesia's Ache.

South Korea is known for the zeal of its missionaries, as well as the number of people it sends overseas on mission trips.

The country is believed to be the second largest source of Christian missionaries after the US, which has some 46,000 worldwide.

The vigorous proselytizing in developing countries has led to kidnapping of missionaries as well as anti-conversion laws in some countries.

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