VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Cities can be chaotic and cold, but people need God in a metropolis as much as they need him anywhere, Pope Francis said.

Lay Catholics especially are called “to go out without fear,” offering a human touch and God’s love to people they work with or live near, the pope said Feb. 7 during a meeting with members of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

With a smile and the example of a joyful Christian life, he said, laypeople “can break the wall of anonymity or indifference that often reigns in a city. It’s about finding the courage to make the first step in approaching others and being neighborhood apostles.”

While big cities can offer “magnificent spaces of freedom” and accomplishment, he said, they also can hide “terrible spaces of dehumanization and unhappiness.”

“It seems that every city, even the most prosperous and well organized, has the ability to generate a dark ‘anti-city.’ It seems that along with citizens, there are non-citizens: people who are invisible, materially poor and lacking the warmth of other people, who live in ‘non-places,’ who live in ‘non-relationships,'” the pope said. “They are individuals no one looks at, no one pays attention to or takes an interest in.”

“In the face of these sad scenes, we must always remember that God has not abandoned the city,” he said.

Anywhere there are human beings, he said, God is present and at work.

One of the most beautiful and surprising things about sharing the Gospel with others, he said, is that one discovers that “there are many hearts the Holy Spirit has already prepared to accept their witness, closeness and attention.”

Lay Catholics need the help of the church in preparing for their mission as civic evangelizers, he said, and they must be helped to see that the most important thing they can do is live the Gospel in their own lives.