Pope Affirms Right to Convert Non-Believers to Christianity

source: Christian Post, May. 19 2008

Pope Benedict XVI said Saturday that the Roman Catholic Church has the indisputable right and duty to convert anyone to Christianity.

The Church’s central mission is evangelism, the pope firmly told a Vatican body responsible for encouraging Catholic missionary activity, according to Agence France-Presse.

Jesus Christ, as recorded in the Gospels, called on the conversion of “all nations,” Benedict said,” and this commission remains “an obligatory mandate for the entire Church and for every believer in Christ.”

"This apostolic commitment is both a duty and an inalienable right, the very expression of religious freedom with its moral, social and political dimensions," the pontiff said.

Benedict’s address comes two months after he baptized a prominent Muslim author into the Catholic Church during an Easter service that was broadcasted worldwide. The baptism of Egyptian-born, Italian writer Magni Allam infuriated some Muslims who saw the act as an assault on Islam.

But the Vatican had said no hostility was intended in baptizing Allam during a broadcasted Easter ceremony, according to The Associated Press.

While Benedict may assert the right of Christians to convert non-believers to the faith, he has also been ramping up efforts to reach out to moderate Muslims for interfaith dialogues.

The Vatican will host a meeting in Rome with leading Muslim religious leaders and scholars in November to encourage more dialogue between Catholics and Muslims.

Many believe the pope’s increased effort on holding interfaith conversations resulted from Muslim anger towards him after he quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor who linked Islam with violence in a 2006 speech at Germany’s Regensburg University.

That same year, Benedict traveled to Turkey, visiting Istanbul’s famous Blue Mosque, in an effort to show tolerance of other religions and to demonstrate a spirit of cooperation for peace in light of the rise in Muslim-Christian clashes worldwide.

But Benedict, like his predecessors, remains enthusiastic about promoting missionary zeal among Catholics.

The Vatican published in December a doctrinal note reaffirming the mission of all Catholics to pursue conversion of non-Catholics, including other Christian denominations.

Ethan Cole
Christian Post Reporter

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