Pope: Church Should Not Fear Change

Pope: Church Should Not Fear ChangePope: Church Should Not Fear Change

Pope Francis closed an assembly of Catholic bishops Sunday, saying that the Church should not be afraid of change and new challenges, Reuters reported.

Francis, who has said he wants a more merciful and less rigid Church, made his comments in a sermon to some 70,000 people in St. Peter's Square in the Vatican City for the ceremonial closing of a two-week assembly, known as a synod.

"God is not afraid of new things. That is why he is continuously surprising us, opening our hearts and guiding us in unexpected ways," the pope said.

Francis dedicated most of his sermon to the synod ahead of a gathering next October.

He said the Church had to "respond courageously to whatever new challenges come our way." He spoke about courage a day after telling the bishops at their last working session to beware both "hostile rigidity" by doctrinal conservatives as well as "destructive good will" by those seeking change at any cost.

Experts point to the long-term results of Francis' new style for such assemblies, which in the past did not take place.

"By changing the synod methodology and making sure the assembly’s candid, sometimes contentious discussion was heard around the world, the pope showed he is not afraid of real debate," said John Thavis, author of the bestselling 2013 book "The Vatican Diaries".

"Pope Francis has clearly placed the Church on a new path, toward an evangelizing style that is less focused on doctrine and more willing to invite people in, no matter what their status," Thavis wrote in his blog.

Former Pope Benedict XVI attended Sunday's gathering, making only his fourth public appearance at a major Church event since his resignation in March, 2013.