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3 million hear Pope's exhortation as WYD concludes

Catholic World News - July 29, 2013

More than 3 million young people gathered on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro for the concluding Mass of World Youth Day (WYD) on July 28, and heard Pope Francis say that the enormous enthusiasm on display at WYD “must not remain locked up.”

“Faith is a flame that grows stronger the more it is shared,” the Pope told the young people. Warning them against keeping their faith to themselves, he said: “That would be like withholding oxygen from a flame that was burning strongly.” Instead he challenged them to help spread the faith across the world.

“Go, do not be afraid, and serve,” the Pope told his young audience. More than 2 million people had spent the night on Copacabana beach after a prayer vigil on Saturday evening. The Pontiff had also spoken at that vigil, encouraging them to reject the lures of materialism and embrace the message of the Gospel.

At the prayer vigil, the Pope reminded the young crowd that the closing events of WYD had originally been scheduled for a field outside the city. (The venue had been changed because of soaking rains that made the field impassible.) A field, he remarked, is “a place for growing seeds.” WYD, too, is a place where seeds are sown, he said. He challenged the young people to work for a rich harvest. Switching his metaphors, he said that WYD participants are “Christ’s athletes,” and urged them to “work up a sweat” in their apostolic activities.

Pope Francis delivered a very similar message in his talks to Latin American bishops and priests during his stay in Brazil. He offered an unflinching analysis of why the Catholic Church is losing members to Evangelical sects, and advised clerics that believers are seeking “a Church which makes room for God’s mystery; a Church which harbors that mystery in such a way that it can entice people, attract them.”

Catholic pastors may have lost touch with their people, the Pope admitted. He offered several explanations for the loss of believers:

Perhaps the Church appeared too weak, perhaps too distant from their needs, perhaps too poor to respond to their concerns, perhaps too cold, perhaps too caught up with herself, perhaps a prisoner of her own rigid formulas, perhaps the world seems to have made the Church a relic of the past, unfit for new questions; perhaps the Church could speak to people in their infancy but not to those come of age.
Speaking on priests and bishops, the Holy Father said: “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, so that they may enter, but we must go out through that door to seek and meet the people!”

The Pope said that the Church should find ways to help people who are alienated or abused by a “throwaway culture.” He criticized the “two modern dogmas: efficiency and pragmatism.” Church leaders, he said, should support people who oppose the “throwaway culture.”

On July 28, his final day in Brazil, the Pope met with leaders of the Latin American bishops’ conference, and again warned against the temptation to treat the Church as a merely human institution. “The Church is an institutions, but when she makes herself a center, she becomes merely functional,” he said. “From an ‘institution’ she becomes an ‘enterprise.’”

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