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World conference ends with call for all faiths to band together to promote joyful family
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PHILADELPHIA Christian families can band together, even across faith borders, to bring the gospel message and joy to their families and to a world that needs light and leaven, evangelist Rev. Rick Warren and Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley said Friday during the final keynote talk of the World Meeting of Families.

"We serve God by serving others," said Warren, pastor and founder of the evangelical Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, and one of the largest megachurches in the country. "Joy-filled families serve together. We are all called to serve, to make a contribution."

O'Malley, the Archbishop of Boston, repeated the pope's message that "the family has never been so threatened."

The two speakers' often-humorous consecutive dissections of what creates a joyful family drew sustained applause from thousands gathered for the final day of the conference's formal program, which will give way Saturday to Pope Francis' visit to Philadelphia. This triennial World Meeting is being hailed as the largest family conference ever, attracting 18,000 attendees, with even more people arriving hourly for the papal visit.

Warren, author of the best-selling book "The Purpose Driven Life," presented a long and disturbing list of things threatening families. Among them, he said, are that God is marginalized, Christians are demonized, the elderly dehumanized, the poor tranquilized, divorce is rationalized, sin is normalized, manners uncivilized and "unfortunately, Christians you and I are demoralized," he said, adding they should organize. "We need to re-energize our families."

Though both men joked individually, the message shared by Rev. Warren and Cardinal O'Malley was serious: People of faith need to share that faith with others. And they need to work together, including with those of different religious traditions.

"As the pope makes clear, our call is to be missionary disciples" who pass faith to a new generation. That is one of the family's roles, Cardinal O'Malley said.

He told the story of Roman Catholic missionaries who wanted to bring God's love to the highlands of Papua, New Guinea. And they did. So did Lutherans. And the people in New Guinea, he said, saw what the Christians of both faiths had missed. They were "disappointed to learn Jesus' disciples were not united."

"Our task is to change the crowd into a community," he said. "That's what evangelizing is about. We are on this earth with the mission to take care of each other to build a civilization of love. And if we don't do that, the patient will die."

The training ground for the work is joyful family life, the two men said.

"If you want a joy-filled family, base it on God's love and use it as a school to grow in grace to grow in Christ," Rev. Warren said, adding that people who spread the gospel are often "the only Bible some people will ever read."

Warren said that love is God's very nature and individuals were all "created as an object of that love."

It would be impossible to make God stop loving you, he told the crowd. "He loves you more than you love you."

Rev. Warren warned people against busy-ness and told them focusing on the Lord provides peace, even in chaos. There's no biblical account of Jesus running anywhere, he said, not even when his friend Lazarus died. "It takes him three days to get there five miles away."

The evangelical pastor spoke movingly of the days leading up to his father's death from cancer. As the disease ate away at his brain, he was restless and spoke his dreams aloud. His dad was also a pastor and had built many churches and he dreamed he needed "to reach one more for Jesus," a commitment his son said he takes seriously. Warren has been to 160-plus countries to offer a gospel message. He also told of the moment in China when a dying professor with whom he had lunch offered a simple prayer of faith and later appeared at a famous church to publicly proclaim his faith.

Friday's speech was not the first time Warren has been invited to speak at events involving the pope and sponsored by the Roman Catholic Church. Last year, Pope Francis invited him and other faith leaders to present the closing speech at a Vatican conference on marriage.