VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians have "far to go" if they seek to be known primarily for their love of God and neighbor, Pope Francis said.
The first law governing the church as the "People of God" is love, he said, which means "recognizing God as the only Lord of life and, at the same time, welcoming others as true brothers and sisters, overcoming divisions, rivalries, misunderstandings and selfishness."
At his weekly general audience June 12, Pope Francis continued his series of audience talks about the creed, looking at what Catholics believe about the church.
With more than 50,000 people gathered for the audience in St. Peter's Square on a hot spring day, the pope lamented that brotherly love does not reign in the world, and often not even in Catholics' communities, neighborhoods, workplaces or even their homes, "because of jealousy and envy."
"We must ask the Lord to help us understand his law of love," he said. "How good, how beautiful it would be if we loved one another as real brothers and sisters."
"Let's try something today," Pope Francis said: "We all have those we like and those we don't like so much. Perhaps many of us are angry with someone. Let's say to the Lord, 'I am angry with this person and that one. I pray for him and for her.'"
"Let's pray for those with whom we are angry. It's a good step forward in this law of love," he said. "Let's do it. Let's do it today."
Pope Francis said that when the Second Vatican Council defined the church as "the People of God," it recognized that the church belongs to God and the Christian community was formed by him.
"It means that God does not belong to any one people," the pope said, and his invitation is addressed "to all, without distinction, because God's mercy wants the salvation of all people."
"Jesus didn't tell the apostles or us to form an exclusive group, a group of the elite," but said to go out to the whole world making disciples of all peoples.
"I want to say to those who feel far from God and from the church, to those who are afraid or indifferent, to those who think they cannot change: The Lord calls you, too, to be part of his people and he does so with great respect and love," the pope said. "He invites you to be part of this people, the people of God."
Pope Francis told those at his audience that it is the obligation of every Christian to be a sign of hope and love in the world and to share with others the joy of being forgiven and saved by God.
"It's enough to open a newspaper to know that evil exists, that the devil acts," he said. "But I want to say loudly that God is stronger."
"Do you believe this? That God is stronger?" the pope asked the crowd. "Then let us say it together, 'God is stronger,'" he said, as many joined him in repeating the phrase.
When things are "dark, marked by evil, they can change if we bring the light of the Gospel, especially with our lives," he said.
The world needs the Gospel and the witness of Christian love, he said. And it's up to Catholics to make sure that the church is a place "where each person feels welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live according to the Gospel."
For that to happen, he said, "the church must have its doors open, so that anyone can come in, and so that we go out and proclaim the Gospel."
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Editor's Note: A video of moments from the pope's audience is available to video clients on the CNS Brightcove viewer, and at http://www.youtube.com/CatholicNewsService.
The text of the pope's audience remarks in English is available online at www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/audiences/2013/documents/papa-francesco_20130612_udienza-generale_en.html.
The text of the pope's audience remarks in Spanish is available online at www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/audiences/2013/documents/papa-francesco_20130612_udienza-generale_sp.html.
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