VATICAN CITY • Pope Francis told a key Roman Catholic meeting on family issues yesterday that the Church should not be a hidebound "museum of memories", but have the courage to change if that was what God wanted.
The three-week meeting of bishops from around the world, known as a synod, will discuss ways to defend the traditional family and make life-long marriage more appealing to young people while seeking common ground with disaffected Catholics such as homosexuals and divorced people.
The gathering, attended by some 300 bishops, delegates, observers and 18 married couples, has been preceded by intense jockeying between conservatives and liberals on a number of sensitive issues.
In his address to open the first working session, Pope Francis said the bishops should not just talk, but should try to hear what God wanted for the Church of 1.2 billion members and to listen to differing opinions among themselves.
He also urged them to humbly empty themselves of conventions and prejudices, and listen to their brother bishops. They should not "point fingers at the others to judge them" or feel superior to those with different ideas.
In a nod to conservatives, he called for courage that "does not let itself be intimidated by the seductions of the world"and passing fads.
But, in a passage that appeared to be directed at unbending traditionalists, he said the bishops should also beware of the "hardening of some hearts, which despite good intentions, keep people away from God".
He said Christian faith was "not a museum to look at and save" but should be a source of inspiration.
Pope Francis called on the bishops to have "courage to bring life and not make our Christian life a museum of memories".
The bishops, who are meeting behind closed doors, will submit reports to the Pope. He may use these to write his own document, known an Apostolic Exhortation, on family issues.
Gay issues have dominated the run-up to the synod; on its eve, the Vatican dismissed a Polish priest from his Holy See job after he came out as gay and called for changes in Catholic teachings against homosexual activity.