Pope, in candid speech, talks of ‘exodus’ from the Church

Pope Francis meets with children during an encounter with representatives of the civil society in the Municipal Theater in Rio de Janeiro. Credit: Reuters
Pope Francis meets with children during an encounter with representatives of the civil society in the Municipal Theater in Rio de Janeiro.
Credit: Reuters

Pope Francis, in a stunningly candid assessment of the state of the Catholic Church, said on Saturday it should look in the mirror and ask why so many people are leaving the faith of their fathers.

On the penultimate day of his trip to Brazil, Francis delivered a long address to the country’s bishops in which he suggested elements of what could become a blueprint for stopping what he called an “exodus.”

“I would like all of us to ask ourselves today: are we still a Church capable of warming hearts?” he said in a speech remarkable for its frankness about the hemorrhaging of the Church in many countries.

The Argentine pope, who is in Rio for a Catholic international jamboree known as World Youth Day, referred to what he called “the mystery of those who leave the Church” because they think it “can no longer offer them anything meaningful or important.”

The Church has been losing members throughout the world to secularism and to other religions, including in Latin America, where evangelical groups have won over many converts.

He acknowledged that many people see the Church as a “relic of the past,” too caught up in itself, and a “prisoner of its own rigid formulas.”

While he said the Church “must remain faithful” to its religious doctrine, it had to be closer to the people and their real problems.

“Today, we need a Church capable of walking at people’s side, of doing more than simply listening to them,” he said.

“At times we lose people because they don’t understand what we are saying, because we have forgotten the language of simplicity and import an intellectualism foreign to our people,” he said.

In Brazil, the number of Catholics has dwindled rapidly in the decades since its once-rural population moved increasingly to major cities, where modern consumer culture has overtaken more provincial mores and where Protestant denominations, aggressively courting followers in urban outskirts and shantytowns, have won many converts.

“We need a Church capable of restoring citizenship to her many children who are journeying, as it were, in an exodus,” he said.

The address to the bishops complemented an earlier homily in Rio’s cathedral, where he urged priests worldwide to leave their comfortable surroundings to go out and serve the poor and needy.

“We cannot keep ourselves shut up in parishes, in our communities, when so many people are waiting for the Gospel,” he said in the sermon of a Mass in Rio’s cathedral.

Since his election in March as the first non-European pope in 1,300 years, Francis has been prodding priests, nuns and bishops to think less about their careers in the Church and listen more to the cries of those who are hungry to fill both material and spiritual needs.

“It is not enough simply to open the door in welcome, but we must go out through that door and meet the people!” he said.

‘SLUM CARDINAL’

Known as the “slum cardinal” in his native Argentina because of his austere lifestyle and visits to poor areas, Francis made a clarion call to clergy to take risks and go out among the faithful who need them most.

“It is in the ‘favelas’ and ‘villas miseria’ that one must go to seek and to serve Christ,” he said, quoting the late Mother Teresa of Calcutta and using the terms used in Brazil and Argentina for shantytowns.

Francis has set a new tone in the Vatican, rejecting the lush papal residence his predecessors used in the Apostolic Palace and living instead in a small suite in a Vatican guest house, and often eating in the common dining room.

The pope spoke as hundreds of thousands of young people were converging on Rio’s famed Copacabana beach for an all night prayer vigil ahead of concluding ceremonies on Sunday, when he returns to Rome.

Earlier, in a talk at Rio’s theater, he said leaders must address the issues raised in protests in Brazil, saying dialogue was the only way to resolve the issues.

Latin America’s largest nation has been rocked by protests against corruption, the misuse of public money and the high cost of living. Most of the protesters are young.

He urged leaders not to remain deaf to “the outcry, the call for justice (that) continues to be heard even today” and, in an apparent reference to corruption, spoke of “the task of rehabilitating politics.”



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

NYPD looking for man they say assaulted elderly…

      The New York City Police Department is asking for the public's assistance in locating a Hispanic male 20's wanted in connection with…

Local

Three arrested after allegedly assaulting off-duty officer in…

Three men were arrested early Saturday morning after allegedly assaulting an off-duty officer at a Bronx bodega, and the NYPD is asking for the public's…

Local

Healthcare union creates vibrant West Indian Day Parade…

Volunteers worked almost around the clock through the weekend, putting the flashy finishing touches on hundreds of costume pieces 1199SEIU members will wear while marching…

National

Top 10 most hipster college campuses

Hipsters are everywhere these days. You can't walk down the anywhere anymore without seeing a pair of skinny jeans on a handlebar mustachioed 20-something, a…

Arts

Theater: Discouraging 'Poor Behavior'

Theresa Rebeck's latest off-Broadway play, about two couples sparring on a weekend getaway, repeats a few mistakes of her past.

Gossip

Chef Todd English arrested for DWI in the…

Celebrity chef Todd English is facing DWI charges after a traffic stop on Sunday.

Movies

Box office: 'Guardians of the Galaxy' is 2014's…

This weekend "The Guardians of the Galaxy" passed the fourth "Transformers" movie to become the highest grossing film of 2014.

Gossip

Spears back with controversial ex?

Is Briteny Spears back with Adnan Ghalib?

Sports

Novak Djokovic feeds off US Open crowd to…

Novak Djokovic isn't a native New Yorker, but he sure knows how to use the U.S. Open crowd to his advantage.

NFL

Odell Beckham still 'weeks away,' Tom Coughlin angry…

Giants head coach Tom Coughlin has fought a losing battle against the media all preseason over the status of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

NFL

3 things we learned in the Giants preseason…

The final score didn’t matter — a 16-13 win by the Giants — but it would’ve been nice to finally see Big Blue’s new-look offense get on track.

NFL

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots, 49ers start…

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots start at top

Education

These college students think breakfast is the most…

  It should be no surprise that the city that never sleeps is also home to the most students who like to order food in…

Sex

When it comes to dating, height matters

Does a man’s height really matter when it comes to dating? Unfortunately - according to a new study - the answer looks like it’s yes.…

Travel

10 free apps to make traveling easier

Finding the nearest bathroom, calculating currency exchanges and locating your departure gate must have been difficult for travelers of previous generations. But we wouldn't know,…

Travel

How to get a seat upgrade to business…

It used to be much easier to upgrade your coach seat to business or even first class, but rigid rules and tighter schedules have made…