Pope urges priests to serve the poor during Rio Mass
Rio de Janeiro: Pope Francis on Saturday challenged priests to bring the message of the Gospel to the world`s slums as he pressed his drive in Brazil to revive a struggling Catholic faith.
"It is in the favelas ...That we must go to seek and serve Christ," he told thousands of bishops, priests and seminarians from around the world gathered for a Mass at Rio`s St Sebastian Cathedral.
"We cannot keep ourselves shut up in parishes, in our communities, when so many people are waiting for the Gospel," Francis said.
"In many places, the culture of exclusion, of rejection is spreading. There is no place for the elderly or for the unwanted child. There is no time for the poor person on the edge of the street," he added.
"Let us courageously look to pastoral needs, beginning on the outskirts, with those who are farthest away, with those who do not usually go to church. They too are invited to the table of the lord," he added.
Addressing the Catholic clergy, he said "have the courage to go against the tide."
"Encountering and welcoming everyone, solidarity and fraternity: these are what make our society truly human," he said, denouncing human relations based on "efficiency and pragmatism".
Later in the day, Francis was to join hundreds of thousands of young pilgrims attending World Youth Day (WYD) in a prayer vigil on Rio`s Copacabana beach.
He began the day with a popemobile ride to the cathedral, kissing babies and blessing crowds of the faithful along the way.
Security was tight across central Rio with gun-toting army troops backing up police units.
Meanwhile, thousands of Catholics attending the Catholic youth festival ignored the cold, rainy weather and set off on a nine-kilometre (5.4 miles) walk across the city to reach the beach venue for the evening vigil.
There they will pray and spend the night before attending tomorrow`s mass with the pope at the close of the Catholic youth fest.
Yesterday, the 76-year-old pontiff and some 1.5 million faithful that gathered to see him watched a somber re-enactment of the stations of the cross depicting scenes of a bloodied Jesus as he was led to his crucifixion.
Francis used the occasion to urge his flock not to lose faith over church failings, and said he understood the frustration of Brazilians with political corruption.
Last month, young Brazilians spearheaded massive street demonstrations against political corruption, to demand better public services, and to protest the high cost of hosting next year`s World Cup.
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