Speaking to 400 priests during his vacation break, Pope Benedict said that he used to be "more strict" about the administration of sacraments, adding that the Church had not always emphasised respect for the environment enough.
The pope said the Church should be generous when it comes to administering the sacraments to young people, recognising that Jesus would have done the same, Catholic News Service reports.
The pope made the remarks in a closed door meeting on Wednesday with about 400 priests and religious in the northern Italian city of Bressanone, where the 81 year old pontiff was vacationing.
Although reporters were not allowed inside the city's cathedral for the one hour encounter, the Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi, described some of the give and take in an interview with Vatican Radio.
One of six questions posed by priests touched on the pastoral care of children, Fr Lombardi said. In his response, the pope spoke about the need to take a broad approach to the administration of sacraments, reflecting the merciful attitude shown by Christ.
"The pope said, 'I used to be more strict about this, but the example of Christ led me to become more welcoming in cases in which, perhaps, there is not a mature and solid faith, but there is a glimmer, a desire of communion with the Church,'" the spokesman said.
The pope concluded that in such cases one can be "broader and more generous in the administration of the sacraments," Fr Lombardi said.
The spokesman said the pope answered questions with a combination of clarity and humility, underlining at times that what he was imparting was his own best advice, not an infallible response.
Asked about environmental issues, the pope said that in recent times the Church has made a greater effort to connect its teachings on redemption with the need to safeguard the gifts of creation.
He said the real threat facing the planet and the human being today is a materialistic vision that denies God and denies the need to use creation responsibly.
Pope thanks AustraliansMeanwhile, in a letter to president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Archbishop Philip Wilson, the Pope thanked Australians for "the warm welcome and gracious hospitality”.
"At the beginning of my visit I said that young people appreciate the opportunity to come together to deepen their faith in Christ and to share with one another a joyful experience of communion in his Church. In the unfolding of the various events of World Youth Day 2008, both catechetical and liturgical, we saw a vivid illustration that it is indeed so.
"I am confident that the young pilgrims will be strengthened in their commitment to the Lord and his Church and encouraged to articulate the spiritual and moral dimensions of the questions which feature prominently in contemporary debate.
"Aware of the commitment of time and energy made by so many individuals and groups across Australia, I ask you to thank once again, on my behalf, the parish and school communities together with the host families who so generously welcomed pilgrims into their homes. May the Lord bless them for all their kindness and goodness.
"Finally, I wish to assure you of my great affection and my continuing prayers for young Australians. May the catechetical initiatives which I know you are no assiduously promoting bear much spiritual fruit, and may all the clergy, religious and laity entrusted to your pastoral care be renewed by the Holy Spirit," the pope wrote.
Pope tells priests to be generous giving sacraments to young people (Catholic News, 7/8/08)I was once 'more severe' than today, Benedict XVI tells priests (National Catholic Reporter, 7/8/08)
Defense of environment presupposes personal conversion, says Pope (Catholic News Agency, 7/8/08)
Thanks, says the Pope (Canberra-Goulburn diocese, 6/8/08)