To effectively witness to the Gospel, Christians need to be consistent in what they believe, how they live, and what they preach, Pope Francis said Wednesday.
“The witness of an authentically Christian life involves a journey to holiness,” Pope Francis said on March 22.
Speaking at his weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square, the pope underlined that Christian witness must include “professed faith” of what the Church teaches that transforms both one’s relationships and “the values that determine our choices.”
“Witness, therefore, cannot be separated from consistency between what one believes, what one proclaims, and how one lives,” he said.
“A person is credible if there is harmony between what he believes and how he lives. Many Christians only say they believe, but live something else … and this is hypocrisy.”
The pope asked the crowd to reflect on three questions first posed by Paul VI in his apostolic exhortation on evangelization in the modern world, Evangelii Nuntiandi: “Do you believe what you are proclaiming? Do you live what you believe? Do you preach what you live?”
Pope Francis emphasized that holiness is “not reserved for a few” but is “a gift from God that demands to be received and made to bear fruit for ourselves and for others.”
“Paul VI teaches that the zeal for evangelization springs from holiness, springs from a heart that is full of God,” he said.
“Nourished by prayer and above all by love for the Eucharist, evangelization, in turn, increases holiness in those who carry it out.”
Because of the importance of bearing witness to the Gospel, Pope Francis said that it is necessary for the Church to constantly be “evangelizing herself.”
“Indeed, ‘she needs to listen unceasingly to what she must believe, to her reasons for hoping, to the new commandment of love. She is the people of God immersed in the world, and often tempted by idols … and she always needs to hear the proclamation of the mighty works of God … this means that she has a constant need of being evangelized if she wishes to retain freshness, vigor, and strength in order to proclaim the Gospel,’” he said, quoting Evangelii Nuntiandi.
“A Church that evangelizes herself in order to evangelize is a Church that, guided by the Holy Spirit, is required to walk a demanding path of continuous conversion and renewal,” he added.
Pope Francis arrived at the general audience in the popemobile to a Florentine flag corps performance by a colorfully-clothed group that preserves the music and traditions from Tuscany’s medieval and Renaissance history.
At the end of the audience, the pope blessed a large bell engraved with the words “Voice of the Unborn,” which will be installed in Lusaka, Zambia.
The giant bell was forged in the workshop of Jan Felczyński in Przemyśl, Poland, as part of an initiative by the Polish Yes to Life foundation. Pope Francis has previously blessed “Voice of the Unborn” bells for Poland, Ecuador, and Ukraine.
Francis called the bell a “sign of the need to protect human life from conception to natural death.”
“Let its sound carry the message that every life is sacred and inviolable. I bless you from my heart,” he said.
Pope Francis also recalled the upcoming anniversary of his consecration of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Virgin Mary on March 25, the solemnity of the Annunciation.
“Let us not tire of entrusting the cause of peace to the Queen of Peace,” the pope said.
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“Therefore, I would like to invite each believer and community, especially prayer groups, to renew every March 25 the act of consecration to Our Lady, so that she, who is Mother, may guard us all in unity and peace.”
Courtney Mares is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from news bureaus on three continents and was awarded the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.