By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis, ending a month-long meeting on the theme of Catholic youth, told young people Sunday that in order to be good members of the Church they should not be obsessed with "doctrinal formulae" but blend its rules with social activism to help those in need.
Francis said a Mass for about 10,000 people in St. Peter's Basilica to ceremoniously close the Synod of Bishops, officially titled "Young People, Faith and Discernment of Vocation" and attended by some 300 bishops, priests, nuns and lay participants.
The gathering's final document, issued late on Saturday night, called for women to play a greater role in Church decision-making as a "duty of justice", but appeared to water down language that would have been more welcoming to gays.
"I would like to say to the young people, in the name of all of us adults: forgive us if often we have not listened to you, if, instead of opening our hearts, we have filled your ears," Francis said in a lighter part of the homily of the Mass, which he co-celebrated with dozens of the bishops who took part in the synod.
But he also went to the heart of accusations against him by some conservatives in the Church who say he has watered down emphasis on doctrinal matters and Church rules in favour of social issues such as migration, poverty and the environment.
In his homily, he said both were necessary.
"Faith passes through life. When faith is concerned purely with doctrinal formulae, it risks speaking only to the head without touching the heart," he said.
"And when it is concerned with activity alone, it risks turning into mere moralizing and social work. Faith, instead, is life: it is living in the love of God who has changed our lives. We cannot choose between doctrine and activism."
He said young people could not wash their hands about the problems of their neighbours but "dirty" them" if they really wanted to imitate Jesus, "not (as) specialists in the sacred, but witnesses of the love that saves".
The pope, who attended the synods sessions every day, will now take the final document into consideration when writing his own document, known as an "Apostolic Exhortation."
(Reporting By Philip Pullella)