He noted that the world today is constantly "in a hurry," and that it's often difficult to take time to be with people and listen to their problems and concerns. But this doesn't mean being inactive, he said, adding that "I am afraid of static priests."
Priests who are obsessed with structure and organization are better "businessman" than pastors, he said, noting that they might pray and celebrate Mass, Jesus himself was "always a man on the street," in the midst of his people and "open to the surprises of God."
There's a certain tension between these two extremes, he said, but urged consecrated people to "not be afraid of this tension," because it's a sign of "vitality" and movement.
He told priests to be flexible in their prayer, always seeking a true encounter with God, and urged them to allow themselves to "get worn out be the people," and not to "defend your own tranquility," since Jesus himself prioritized relationships with the people, yet always set aside time to be with his Father.
When it comes to fostering a stronger sense of brotherhood among priests, the Pope said that first of all this means letting go of "that image of the priest who knows everything," and who doesn't need the input of others.
Self-sufficiency does a lot of harm to a consecrated person, he said, and asked the priests and religious how many times during a meeting they stop paying attention to what a fellow brother or sister is saying, and let their minds go "into orbit" with other things.
Even if what the other person says isn't necessarily of immediate interest, it's important to pay attention, he said, explaining that each person "is a richness." He told them to look for moments to pray together, go for lunch or play sports together, which all help to form stronger ties.
He also warned against "murmuring" and "jealousy," noting that at times when he reviews information collected on possible candidates for bishops, "you find true calumny or opinions (that) devalue the priest."
To speak poorly of a brother is to "betray" him, Francis said, and warned, as he often does, about the dangers of gossip and the importance of forgiveness.
When it comes to keeping charisms fresh, the Pope emphasized the importance of staying attached to the concrete realities of a diocese or project.
While a congregation might be "universal" in the sense that it has houses throughout the world, the "concreteness" of involvement in the diocese helps give the order "roots," allowing it to remain and also to grow as they see different needs come up.
On the vocational crisis, Francis immediately pointed out the low birthrate in Europe, particularly Italy, saying the lack of vocations is also tied to the "demographic problem" that people don't want to get married or have children.
"If there are no young men and women, there are no vocations," he said, explaining that while this is not the only reason for the crisis, it's something that must be kept in mind.
He also stressed the importance of looking critically at what is happening in the world and posing the question: "what is the Lord asking right now?"
"The vocational crisis is affecting the entire Church," including the priesthood, religious life and even marriage, he said, noting that many young couples don't want to commit themselves to the vocation of marriage, but instead prefer to cohabitate.
Given the widespread nature of the crisis, "it's a time to ask ourselves, to ask the Lord, what must we do? What must we change?" he said, adding that "to face problems is necessary, (but) to learn from problems is obligatory."
His words have a special resonance given that the next Synod of Bishops, set to take place in October 2018, will address the topic: "Young People, Faith and the Discernment of Vocation."
Francis cautioned against the temptation of "conquest" when it comes to filling empty convents and seminaries, stressing that true vocational work "is hard, but we must do it."
"It's a challenge, but we must be creative," he said, and emphasized the importance of bearing personal witness through the living of one's own vocation, which "is key" to showing youth how rewarding a life offered for Christ and others can be.
In a meeting with youth at Genoa's Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Guard, he also took questions from four youth, two boys and two girls, telling them he wouldn't give them "pre-made answers," but personal answers.
In their questions, the youth asked how to be a missionary in the face modern challenges; how to go beyond modern distractions and love those in difficulty and crisis around us; how to have a strong spiritual life, and how to have sincere relationships in a culture of indifference.
Francis said that being a missionary above all "means letting yourself be transformed by the Lord."
"Normally when we live these activities, we are joyful when things go well, and this is good, but there is another transformation that you don't see, it's hidden and is born in the lives of all of us," he said, adding that to be a missionary "allows us to learn how to look, how to see with new eyes."
He told the youth to stop being "tourists," many of whom come to the city and take pictures of everything, but "don't look at anything."
"To look at life with the eyes of tourists is superficial...it means I don't touch reality, I don't see things as they are," he said, noting that going out on mission helps us to go beyond the superficial and "draw near to the heart of another."
It also destroys hypocrisy, he said, explaining that for adults, but especially for youth to have this attitude, "is suicide. Understand? It's suicide."
Accepting Jesus' invitation to me a missionary, he said, helps us to look at each other in the eye and purifies us from seeing the Church divided into the "good" and the "bad."
He said that to respond to the needs of people in difficulty – the poor, migrants, homeless and unemployed – we must first of all "love them. We can't do anything without love."
No matter how many projects we set up or are involved in, it's useless without love, he said. The Pope explained that whenever he can he likes to ask people, when they give to the poor, if they "touch the hand of the person" they give to, or if they pull back immediately.
Love, he said, is the ability to take hold of the "dirty hand" and to look at people in situations of drugs, poverty and hardship, and to say that "for me, you are Jesus."
Pope Francis said focusing on the person who has been wounded and excluded, rather than their situation, is part of "the madness of the faith," and of the announcement of Jesus.
He told the youth to never ignore people or "make the person into an adjective," calling them a "drunk," because they are a person with a name. "Never make people into adjectives!" he said, adding that "God is the only one who can judge, and he will do it in the Final Judgement for each one of us."
Giving advice for how to have a strong spiritual life, the Pope tied his answer to the city's link with boaters and sailors, telling them that if they want to be a good disciple, "you need the same heart as a navigator: a horizon and courage."
"If you don't have a horizon...you will never be a good missionary," he said, and warned against the distractions new media technologies can bring.
"You have the opportunity to know everything with new technologies, but these information technologies make you fall into a canal many times, because instead of informing us, the saturate us," he said. And when you are saturated, the horizon "gets closer and closer" and soon "you have a wall in front of you."
When this happens, the horizon is lost as is the ability to contemplate, he said, and told the youth to take time to contemplate and make good decisions, instead of "eating" whatever is put in front of them.
He also urged the youth to question what has become almost routine in today's "normal culture." He asked if it was normal that "so many migrants come from far away, bloodied by a selfishness that leads to death" end up living in difficulty in foreign countries. "Is it normal that the Mediterranean has become a cemetary?"
Instead of just accepting that this is the norm, he told them to ask themselves: "is this normal, or is this not normal?" and to always "have courage to seek the truth."
At the close of his meeting with youth, Francis offered a special greeting to prisoners of watching the meeting via television before heading to lunch with poor, refugees, homeless and prisoners from Genoa.