Pope shames Lat Am church for letting faithful go

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Pope Francis delivers his homily during a Mass at Rio de Janeiro's Cathedral in Brazil, Saturday, July 27, 2013. Pope Francis on Saturday challenged bishops from around the world to get out of their churches and preach, and to have the courage to go to the farthest margins of society to find the faithful. (AP Photo/Luca Zennaro, Pool)

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Pope Francis has issued a sharp criticism of the Catholic Church's failure to keep its Latin American flock from straying to evangelical churches. He's challenging the region's bishops to be closer to their people to understand their problems and offer credible solutions.

During a luncheon with the region's bishops Saturday, Francis took a direct swipe at the "intellectual" message of the church that so characterized the pontificate of his predecessor, Benedict XVI. He said ordinary people simply don't understand such lofty ideas and need a simpler message of love, forgiveness and mercy.

He asked bishops to reflect on why millions of Catholics have left the church for charismatic Pentecostal congregations that have grown exponentially in recent decades.