VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Priests must follow the example of Jesus, the good shepherd, who laid down his life not just for his flock but also for the sheep that strayed away, Pope Francis said.

Addressing students and faculty from the Pontifical Mexican College March 29, the pope said the problems of today’s world should awaken “in every priest an authentic compassion, both for the sheep entrusted to him and for those who have gone astray.”

Those problems, he said, “demand of us priests that we conform ourselves to the Lord and the gaze of love with which he contemplates us. By conforming our gaze to his, our gaze is transformed into a gaze of tenderness, reconciliation and fraternity.”

In his prepared remarks, the pope highlighted the challenges facing the Catholic Church in Mexico which, like in many countries across the globe, have been made even more difficult due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tenderness, he said, is needed to address “the problems that afflict society,” including violence, social and economic inequalities, corruption and a lack of hope.

Priests also must foster reconciliation, which is needed to confront differences as well as corruption that have weakened the “multicolored web of cultures that make up the social and religious fabric of the nation.”

Mexican priests must show particular care and concern for “those who have been discarded because of their indigenous roots or their particular popular religiosity,” the pope continued.

“We shepherds are called to help rebuild respectful and constructive relationships between persons, groups and cultures within society, proposing to all to ‘allow themselves to be reconciled by God’ and to commit to the restoration of justice,” he said.

Lastly, Pope Francis told the students and faculty that they must have “a shared and unifying vision that can impel us to create fraternity” by highlighting the “points of connection and interaction in the heart of cultures and in the ecclesial community.”

Such a vision, he said, will encourage and guide the faithful “to be respectful of our common home and become builders of a new world, in collaboration with all men and women of goodwill.”

“In order to see in this way, we need the light of faith and the wisdom of those who know how to ‘take off their sandals’ in order to contemplate the mystery of God and, from this perspective, to read the signs of the times,” the pope said.