Pope Francis is making his first international trip since coronation as Pope in March to lead the World Youth Day in Rio, Brazil, where more than a million young Catholics are expected to greet the first pontiff from South America.
The 76-year-old Argentine, the Catholic Church’s first pontiff from the Americas, has arrived to Brazil, country with the world’s largest Catholic adherents but the lowest it has seen, on Monday and will depart after Sunday’s Holy Mass. The theme of WYD is “Go and Make Disciples of All Nations.
As he disembarked from the Alitalia plane in Rio’s airport, Pope Francis was greeted by President Rousseff and the cheers and applause from the crowd. A choir sang an anthem linked to Youth Day and he was presented with a bouquet of flowers.
He was later taken to the center of Rio de Janeiro, where he switched to an open-air Pope-mobile, waiving at the tens of thousands who lined the streets he toured. Francis later took a helicopter ride to an official welcoming ceremony hosted by President Dilma Rousseff.
"I ask permission to come in and spend this week with you," he said in deliberate but clear Portuguese, according to Los Angeles Times. "I have neither silver nor gold, but I bring with me the most precious thing given to me: Jesus Christ!"
"Christ has confidence in young people and entrusts them with the very future of his mission, 'Go and make disciples.' "
“I came to meet young people coming from all over the world, drawn to the open arms of Christ the Redeemer,” he said, referring to Rio’s iconic Jesus statue overlooking the city. “They want to find a refuge in his embrace, right near his heart to hear his call clearly and powerfully.”
Prior to the pontiff’s visit, anti-government protests outside the palace lasted for weeks. About an hour after the welcoming ceremony for the Pope, police fired stun grenades and tear gas to disperse the crowd demonstrating outside the palace, the latest rally against poor government services and the gap between rich and poor in Brazil. Demonstrators planned to use the pope’s presence in Brazil to press their demands on the government. The president used Franics’ presence to address the pressure to reform.
“We know that in you, we have religious leader who is sensitive to the yearnings of our people for social justice, and for opportunity for all,” she said. “We struggle against a common enemy: inequality in all its forms.”
According to Los Angeles Times, Francis carted his carry-on luggage while waiting in line to board the Alitalia flight. Journalists were amused to see the famously humble pontiff without many of the formalities that customarily go with papal voyages.
On his flight from Rome, the Pope told reporters that young people were “at this moment are in crisis,” referring to the high level of unemployment among youth and society’s disregard for elderly.
“A people has a future if it goes forward with bridges: with the young people having the strength to bring it forward and the elderly, because they have the wisdom of life,” said Francis, journalists onboard the flight told LA Times.
“We run the risks of having a generation that hasn’t worked,” he said, even though work confers dignity. He also criticized what he said was a “culture” of socially rejecting the elderly who were “thrown away” as if they had nothing to offer, according to BBC.
Pope Francis’ Itinerary in Brazil
• Arrival and welcoming ceremony at Rio state governor's palace
• Visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of the Conception of Aparecida and to the St Francis of Assisi of the Providence of God Hospital in Rio
• Visit to the Varginha community in Rio, welcoming ceremony at the World Youth Day on Copacabana
• Meeting with young prisoners and a Way of the Cross ceremony on Copacabana
• Meeting with Brazil's leaders in Rio and a prayer vigil with young people
• Holy Mass for the World Youth Day in Rio, farewell ceremony and departure for Rome