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Pope challenges Catholic clergy in Rio to reach out to the masses

Millions have turned out at Copacabana beach in Brazil for the final evening of World Youth day with Pope Francis. The pontiff is using his Latin American tour to draw the poor and marginalized back to the church.

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Organizers estimate that about two million people were present at Copacabana beach for the final evening of World Youth day with Pope Francis. The pontiff greeted the masses before the beginning of Saturday night's vigil service.

Earlier in the day, the pope addressed 1,000 Catholic leaders in Rio de Janeiro's modern Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Sebastian, telling them they must do more than open their church doors to welcome the faithful.

"We cannot keep ourselves shut up in parishes, in our communities when so many people are waiting for the Gospel," Francis said in his homily. "It's not enough simply to open the door in welcome, but we must go out through that door to seek and meet the people."

Shaking things up

The pope is trying to reenergize the Catholic Church, which has seen dwindling numbers in Latin America, owing to competition from evangelical congregations that resonate with the poorer communities.

"Let us courageously look to pastoral needs, beginning with the outskirts, with those who are farthest away, with those who do not usually go to church," the pope continued. "They too are invited to the table of the Lord."

Saturday's message was on theme with speeches he gave earlier in the week. When he spoke with youths on Thursday, for example, he urged them to make a "mess" in their dioceses by shaking things up and confronting their priests.

Encouraging change

The pope also met with Brazil's cultural and business leaders on Saturday in the city's municipal theater, where he urged them to address the recent protests in Brazil against corruption and the high cost of living. Most of the protesters were youths.

"Between selfish indifference and violent protest there is always another possible option: that of dialogue. Dialogue between generations, dialogue with the people, the capacity to give and receive, while remaining open to the truth," the pope said.

He encouraged leaders not to remain deaf to the youth's "outcry, the call for justice" and even spoke of the "task of rehabilitating politics."

The pope himself is attempting to overhaul the Vatican's staid and dysfunctional bureaucracy with reforms and probes into possible misdeeds at the scandal-plagued Vatican bank and other administrative offices.

On Sunday, Pope Francis is set to return to Rome.

tm/slk (AP, Reuters)