RIO DE JANEIRO — In the thick of his historic visit to Brazil this week, Pope Francis urged young Catholics to make a "mess" in their dioceses and break out of their spiritual cages.
Francis' exhortation during a special meeting with Argentine faithful on Thursday, won him acclaim as a renegade leader of the world's biggest church. But it also left many of his followers with their own interpretations of the pontiff's words about the need to shake up the church.
Some said they thought Francis wanted them to object more forcefully when taught ideas that clash with church doctrine. Others said it meant hitting the streets and pushing for social change.
"If in my biology class they speak about abortion, I should raise my hand and say I don't believe in that," said Maria Alejandrina de Dicindio, a 54-year-old Argentine catechism teacher who had traveled to Rio to see her pope, a fellow Argentine. "The youth should open their mouths when it's their turn."
For Mexican pilgrim Gilberto Amado Hernandez, the pope's message meant he should start showing the world Jesus Christ's message of love.
"It's difficult to meet young people who want to get close to Christ," Amado said. "We have to show them that faith is something beautiful."
Francis himself didn't specify what to do, but he has displayed his own mold-breaking ways throughout this week's visit to Rio de Janeiro and rural Sao Paulo state, his first overseas trip as pope.
The first pontiff from the Americas worried security officials by riding through massive crowds atop an open-sided popemobile rather than the fully enclosed, bulletproof vehicle his last two predecessors used. He's also ventured straight up to well-wishers to kiss babies and bless children and met privately Friday with juvenile offenders.