Pope Francis urged bishops Saturday to get out of their churches and bring the message of Catholicism to the world’s poorest areas.
The Argentine-born pope addressed hundreds of bishops, priests and other clergy during a mass at the cathedral in Rio de Janeiro, telling them “we cannot keep ourselves shut up in parishes, in our communities, when so many people are waiting for the Gospel.”
“It is not enough simply to open the door in welcome,” the pope said, “but we must go out through that door and meet the people.”
“Let us push the young people so they go out. Of course they are going to mess it up sometimes. We can’t be afraid; the apostles did this (made mistakes) before us. We need to push them to go out. Let us courageously look to the pastoral needs of the outskirts, beginning with those who are farthest away, with those who do not usually go to church. They are the VIP guests. Go to the crossroads, go and find them,” said Pope Francis.
The call to shake up the Church is one the pope made to young people as well this week during his trip to Brazil for the Catholic youth festival, known as World Youth Day.
On Thursday, he reached out to the poor himself with a visit to one of Rio’s notorious slums, or favelas.
Francis was also having lunch with bishops Saturday and meeting with Brazilian politicians, businessmen and intellectuals at Rio’s historic municipal theater.
In the evening, he will preside over a vigil service on the sprawling sands of Rio’s Copacabana Beach that is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of young people.
The pope leaves Brazil Sunday after a mass closing the Catholic youth celebrations.
On Friday, the pontiff encouraged young people to honor their grandparents and thank them for the wisdom they share, as he addressed a crowd in Rio.
Bridging the gap between younger and older generations has been another of the 76-year-old pope’s main messages during his week-long trip to Brazil.
The visit has also featured rides in his open “Popemobile,” with Francis greeting crowds of faithful and stopping at various moments to kiss babies and shake hands.