Pope Benedict XVI urged the world’s bishops on Sunday to try to bring back Catholics who have left the church as he opened a three-week meeting to reinvigorate the church’s evangelization mission.

Some 262 cardinals, bishops and priests from around the world are in Rome for the meeting, or synod, called to give impetus to the pope’s efforts to re-evangelize parts of the world where Catholicism has fallen by the wayside.

At the start of the Mass, Benedict named two new “doctors” of the church, conferring one of the Catholic Church’s highest honors on the 16th-century Spanish preacher, St. John of Avila, and the 12th-century German mystic, St. Hildegard of Bingen. They join the ranks of only 33 other church doctors who have been singled out over the course of Christianity for their contributions to and influence on Catholic doctrine.

Benedict has long lamented that in Europe and the Americas, Catholics no longer practice their faith or pass it onto their children. That concern is reflected in the synod’s working document that will form the basis of discussion over the next three weeks.

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