(Photo: Reuters/Ricardo Moraes)
More than 3 million people gathered at Rio's Copacabana beach on Sunday for the final Mass of Pope Francis' trip to Brazil. The first Latin American pope used the occasion to urge the faithful to come out of their isolation and evangelize the world.
"The experience of this encounter must not remain locked up in your life or in the small group of your parish, your movement, or your community," pope told the crowd spread along the 2.5 mile crescent of the beach at the final celebration of the World Youth Day on Sunday. "That would be like withholding oxygen from a flame that's burning," the 76-year-old Argentine pope said, according to Rome Reports.
Among the attendees were Brazilian President Dilma Roussef, Argentinian President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Bolivian President Evo Morales.
"This continent has received the proclamation of the Gospel which has marked its history and borne much fruit," the pope went on to say. "Now this proclamation is entrusted also to you, that it may resound with fresh power. The Church needs you, your enthusiasm, your creativity and the joy that is so characteristic of you."
Census data in Brazil shows the number of Catholics came down from 125 million in 2000 to 123 million 10 years later. However, the number of evangelicals and Pentecostals jumped from 26 million to 42 million during the same period.
"Bringing the Gospel is bringing God's power to pluck up and break down evil and violence, to destroy and overthrow the barriers and selfishness, intolerance and hatred, so as to build a new world," The Associated Press quoted the pope as saying.
The pope also told the faithful that Jesus was calling on them to be a disciple with a mission. "Dear young people, Jesus Christ is counting on you, the Church is counting on you, the Pope is counting on you!" Catholic Herald quoted him as saying.
The pontiff encouraged the Catholic youth to go out and not be isolated, to be courageous, and to serve.
It is believed the pope's first international trip, to Latin America, will revitalize the Catholic Church.
"If this trip is any indication, he's off to a strong start at revitalizing the church," Andrew Chesnut of Virginia Commonwealth University told The New York Times. "He's been very astute on focusing on the everyday afflictions of the poor, taking a page from the evangelicals themselves."
The pope gave a similar message to the youth in Brazil on Thursday. "I would like to tell you what my expectations are regarding this World Youth Day," Francis said on a rain-soaked Copacabana Beach. "I would like us to make noise, I would like those inside the dioceses to go out into the open; I want the Church to be in the streets; I want us to defend ourselves against all that is worldliness, comfort, being closed and turned within – parishes, colleges and institutions must get out otherwise they risk becoming NGOs, and the Church is not a non-governmental organization," The Vatican Today quoted him as saying.
The pope has said he wants to reform the Church and bring it back to its original mission.
Soon after his election in March, the pope appointed a group of eight cardinals to help him bring changes in the Church's administration, which has been plagued with scandals especially during the eight-year reign of Pope Benedict.