“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-kilometer (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 Sunday’s mass with the pope at the close of the Catholic youth fest.
On Friday, 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 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.
“On the cross, Jesus is united with so many young people who have lost faith in political institutions, because they see in them only selfishness and corruption,” the pope said.
“He unites himself with those young people who have lost faith in the Church, or even in God because of the incoherence of Christians and ministers of the Gospel,” Francis said, in a veiled reference to the pedophilia and financial scandals that have rocked the Vatican in recent years.
The Vatican is also alarmed by the growing strength of Evangelical Protestant churches in Brazil, the world most populous Catholic country, and the spread of secularism.
Francis was to meet later Saturday with Brazilian politicians, artists and intellectuals, and civil society representatives at the historic Theatro Municipal.
He could use the meeting to review some of the political, economic and social challenges facing Latin America’s dominant power, including the recent social unrest, drug trafficking and the fight against poverty.
Francis is then scheduled to have lunch with Brazilian cardinals and bishops, give a speech and have three trips through the city in his open “Popemobile.”
The evening vigil and Sunday’s closing mass were supposed to be held in a field in neighboring Guaratiba, but rain turned the field into a mud pit, prompting authorities to move the events.
Soledad Bohle, a 21-year-old Argentine pilgrim, said she was enchanted by the pope because he “speaks in a concrete way, because he has a direct way of saying things, and that reaches many of the young people,” she told AFP.
“We need a pope who is close to Latin America. We’ve always had European popes,” said Rodrigo Blanco, also 21, who, like the pope, is from Argentina.
The pope’s visit this week has been plagued by a series of embarrassing logistical missteps.
Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes Friday took responsibility for the problems, which come a year before the city is to host the World Cup, followed by the summer Olympics two years later.
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