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Pope's message reaches NH diocese

Wire and staff reports
July 27. 2013 7:17PM
Pope Francis meets with native Brazilians during an encounter with representatives of the civil society in the Municipal Theater in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday. (REUTERS/Carlo Wrede/Agencia O Dia)

Pope Francis has called on his bishops to get out more, and a spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Manchester says meeting the people has been a priority for New Hampshire's prelate since he took office a year and a half ago.

Francis told an audience in Rio de Janeiro this weekend that priests, and particularly bishops, need to be where the people are.

"We cannot keep ourselves shut up in parishes, in our communities, when so many people are waiting for the Gospel," the Pontiff said.

Patrick McGee, a spokesman for the Manchester Diocese, said Bishop Peter Libasci spends considerable time meeting people in the community.

"It's part of his responsibility, our responsibility, to extend the church to everyone in the state," McGee said. "Bishop Libasci certainly embraces the whole concept of the new evangelization, of getting out and making disciples of everyone in the church."

In Rio de Janeiro, Francis told clerics that they can do the most good by leaving their cathedrals and rectories.

"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.

McGee noted that earlier this month, Libasci assigned four priests to a new diocesan office dedicated to leading evangelization efforts throughout New Hampshire.

"Certainly as Catholics, we are called always to go out and spread the good news of the gospel," McGee said. "In our society today, there's a number of people who may have been raised Catholic and participate in the Catholic church and are now not as regular, and certainly today it's our mission to reach out to them."

During his next-to-last day in Rio, the Pope addressed issues raised in recent protests in Brazil in a talk with cultural and religious leaders.

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.

In his first direct mention of the protests, Pope Francis called constructive dialogue "essential for facing the present moment."

"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," he said.

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."

Known as the "slum cardinal" in his native Argentina because of his austere lifestyle and visits to poor areas, Pope Francis made a 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.

Pope Francis arrived in Rio a week ago to participate in world Catholic Youth Day activities.

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