Pope Francis encouraged youngsters to put down their phones to spend time praying and looking at other people to see their needs.

"The Lord does not want us to spend our days being closed in on ourselves. And this is a great risk for boys and girls today: to spend the day staring at the screen of a cellphone," he wrote in a prepared speech.

"Our eyes are made to look into other people's eyes," he said. "They are not made to look down on a virtual world we hold in our hands, but to look up to heaven, to God, and to look into the eyes of those who live near us."

The pope's written remarks were distributed to members of the boys' and girls' section of Italian Catholic Action, a parish-based program of faith building and social outreach, during an audience at the Vatican Dec. 15.

"Some might think that being a good Christian requires, most of all, reflection, meditation," the pope's text said. "Instead, Jesus says: Go! It is a decisive verb, because it transforms the disciple into an apostle, makes him or her a missionary."

"You, too, dear friends, are called to go, because God does not like it when we get lazy on the couch; he wants us on the move, on the road, ready and willing to get involved," he wrote.

Setting off may be a little scary, he said, but it is worth it.

"It is beautiful to follow Jesus," he wrote. "It is beautiful to discover the great love that he has for each of us; it is beautiful to venture into the project of happiness that he has in mind for me, for you, for everyone; it is beautiful to discover the gifts that he gives us with great generosity, the surprises that fill our lives with wonder and hope, that make us grow free and happy."