Shun caste mentality, defend weakest, pope tells new cardinals

Francis called for a more merciful and compassionate Church in the homily of a Mass.

Pope Francis leads a mass on 15 February, 2015 at St. Peter’s basilica in Vatican. Picture: AFP.

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis urged Roman Catholic leaders on Sunday to shun a "closed caste" mentality, saying the Church's credibility rested on its ability to help the poor and persecuted on the margins of society.

Francis called for a more merciful and compassionate Church in the homily of a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica with new cardinals who were installed on Saturday.

Since his election two years ago as the first Latin American pope, Francis has been nudging Church leaders to leave their comfort zones and privileges and get closer to their flocks, particularly the poor.

He hammered home the point in the homily, telling the new cardinals the Church needed to move "with courage and determination, rolling up our sleeves and not standing by and watching passively the suffering of the world".

Francis said leaders of the 1.2 billion-member Church should shun the temptation to "become a closed caste with nothing authentically ecclesial about it".

He urged them to pay attention to the imprisoned, sick, unemployed and persecuted and to those who have lost their faith, as well as atheists.

"The way of the Church is precisely to leave her four walls behind and to go out in search of those who are distant, those on the outskirts of life," the pope said.

"We will not find the Lord unless we truly accept the marginalised (people)... Truly the Gospel of the marginalised is where our credibility is at stake."