By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The first task of a catechist is to love the Lord and to live the faith in a way that makes others want to live it, too, Pope Francis told more than 1,400 people attending the International Congress on Catechesis.

“Catechesis” is not simply a weekly, hourlong religious education class, but is a sharing of a “living experience of faith,” the pope told the catechists, priests and bishops Sept. 10 at the closing session of the three-day meeting.

The congress was sponsored by the Dicastery for Evangelization and brought together national, diocesan and parish directors of catechesis from more than 50 countries.

Focusing on the third section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Life in Christ,” the plenary sessions and study groups at the congress centered on “The catechist, witness of the new life in Christ” with a focus on forming the moral consciences of Catholics and helping them understand the social obligations of faith in Christ.

Archbishop Rino Fisichella, who organized the congress, told Vatican News that just as the early Christians gave witness to the faith by forming communities, sharing what they had and caring for the poor, Christians today also must show the concrete implications of their faith, including by caring for the environment.

Pope Francis told the catechists, “You are required to make visible and tangible the person of Jesus Christ, who loves each one of you, and therefore becomes the rule of our life and the criterion of judgment for our moral action.”

“Never stray from this source of love, because it is the condition for being happy and full of joy, always and despite everything,” he told them. “This is the new life that sprung forth in us on the day of our baptism, and which we have the responsibility to share with everyone, so that it may grow in everyone and bear fruit.”

Every Christian, but especially catechists, priests and bishops, are called “to make the Gospel resonate in the heart of every person,” he said.

Pope Francis shared with the group that one of his favorite things each week is his Wednesday general audience, which gives him a chance to explain an aspect of the faith and the life of the church to a large group of people.