Pope Francis has asked Catholic churches around the world to keep their doors open despite terror threats following the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, saying terror groups must not be allowed to influence "every aspect of our lives," and especially the hospitality of the church.
"An inhospitable Church, like a family which is locked in on itself, demeans the Gospel and withers up the world," Pope Francis said during a general audience in the Vatican, according to Catholic News Agency. "No armored doors in the Church! Open all of them!"
The 78-year-old pontiff told pilgrims in St Peter's square that "if the door of God's mercy is always open," we must leave the doors of our institutions open so that "we can go out carrying God's mercy."
He added, "There are places in the world where doors should not be locked with a key. There are still some but there are also many where armored doors have become the norm. We must not surrender to the idea that we must apply this way of thinking to every aspect of our lives, …" according to Agence France Presse.
"To do so to the Church would be terrible," he said, adding that the Lord, as our Shepherd, protects His sheep, allowing us to enter and exit without fear. "Jesus is the door whereby we enter and go out, because the God's sheepfold is a safe haven, not a prison!" the pope was quoted as saying.
He also said, "The Church is the caretaker of God's house, not its owner!"
Meanwhile, Brussels lifted the country's highest terror alert Wednesday, after five days, although a prime suspect in the deadly Paris attacks is still on the run in the Belgian capital.
Salah Abdeslam, a 26-year-old resident of Brussels suspected to be among the Islamic State men who carried out six attacks in Paris, which killed at least 130 people, continues to elude Brussels police.
The suspect's elder brother blew himself up at a cafe in Paris, but Abdeslam – a petty criminal who ran a bar in Brussels' Molenbeek immigrant quarter – did not, and is now caught between security forces and other men from Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIS, who are allegedly keeping an eye on him. A third brother, who is not a suspect, has said Abdeslam may have thought better of going through with the killing.
The day before the attacks in Paris, a double suicide bomb assault in Beirut, Lebanon, killed at least 43 people and wounded more than 239 others, targeting Shia Muslims. ISIS claimed responsibility for this attack.
About a week later, an American mother and public health worker was among 27 killed in a terror attack on Radisson Blu hotel in Mali's capital Bamako, in which al Qaeda-affiliated attackers carrying AK-47s took more than 100 people hostage.