"The holy father asks us to live our religious life in all settings," he said. "To understand and live religion and to go out into the community in a convincing and simple manner."
Beyond direct calls for a more active church, experts said the pontiff's Brazilian trip was rich in symbolism just as important in getting his messages across.
He paid a visit to a trash-strewn slum recently cleared of drug gangs. He met with young, recovering drug addicts to whom he gave deep hugs after they told their stories to him at a public event. He responded to a crowd mobbing his car on arrival in Brazil not by recoiling, but by rolling down his car window to shake hands and kiss babies.
"The symbolism Francis showed throughout the trip was perfect. He touched the hearts of all Brazilians, not just Catholics," said Fernando Altemeyer, a theology professor at the Catholic University of Sao Paulo. "It will be a long-term project to repair losses of the church, but what he's done is provide an immediate shock to the system."
Most of Francis' changes were in style rather than substance. He offered no bending on Catholic doctrine that splits some of the church's followers, including contraception, abortion and refusal to allow clergy to marry. Only on the plane flying home to Italy did he hint at new thinking from the church, saying he wouldn't judge gay priests for their sexual orientation.
Francis showed a deft ability to understand his audiences in Brazil and how best to communicate with whomever he might be interacting, something he's also asking of clergy.
During homilies and in public speeches, he used plain language that reinforced basic messages of help for the poor, of God's love for everyone, and of the need for Catholics to keep the Lord in their hearts.
When meeting with clergy in closed sessions, however, Francis switched to theologically complex discourses laden with thoughts on how the church must change, and said the church must end its overly intellectual and self-referential manner of communicating if it hopes to be understood.
"If the losses of the faithful are the result of church liturgy that is too staid or a message not being put across in a modern way in terms of how it's delivered, then, yes, he can make a difference," said Monsignor Raymond Kupke, who teaches church history at Seton Hall University's School of Theology in the U.S. "One trip to Brazil won't immediately change things, but it may have an impact on re-energizing people and reaching out to those who are nominally Catholic."
Shivering in a cold Rio de Janeiro dawn, light just starting to streak the sky, Fabio Feitosa da Silva, a 32-year-old waiter on his way to work, quietly spoke about his impressions of the pope, of how he's starting to look differently at the Catholic Church he stopped attending 15 years ago when its message no longer resonated with him.
"I didn't expect this, but I love him, everybody loves him," Silva said, neatly summing up the general feeling in Brazil. "He's won my interest, he has my attention, I'm listening. It's his humility that touches my heart. He's even got me convinced to attend Mass later on the beach."
Associated Press writers Marco Sibaja and Nicole Winfield in Rio de Janeiro and Gonzalo Solano in Quito, Ecuador, contributed to this report.
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