The world is no longer Christian, he underlined. "Today we are no longer the only ones who produce culture, neither the first nor the most listened to."
"We therefore need a change of pastoral mentality," he said, adding that this does not mean "a relativistic pastoral action."
"We are no longer in a regime of Christianity because faith – especially in Europe, but also in a large part of the West – no longer constitutes an obvious presupposition of common life, indeed it is often even denied, derided, marginalized and ridiculed," he stated.
The pope warned against a rigid attitude stemming from a fear of change.
"There is always the temptation to fall back on the past (even using new formulations), because it is more reassuring, known and, certainly, less confrontational," he said. "However, this too is part of the process and of the risk of initiating significant changes."
He noted something said by the theologian Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini in the last interview before his death, "words that must make us question."
Martini said: "The Church has remained behind two hundred years. How come it does not shake? Are we afraid? Fear instead of courage? However faith is the foundation of the Church. Faith, trust, courage. [...] Only love conquers fatigue."
Reflecting on Christmas and the mystery of the Incarnation, Francis urged the cardinals and bishops to "not forget that the Child lying in the crib has the face of our most needy brothers and sisters, of the poor."
"Christmas is the feast of God's love for us. The divine love that inspires, directs and corrects change and defeats the human fear of leaving the 'safe' to relaunch us in the 'mystery,'" he said.
St. John Henry Newman said Christmas, the pope continued, should "find us more and more like Him who, in this time has become a child for our sake; that every new Christmas finds us simpler, more humble, holier, more charitable, more resigned, happier, fuller of God."