Tens of thousands of people in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil took to the streets in order to welcome Pope Francis on his first international trip as head of the Roman Catholic Church.
The Argentine-born pontiff waved and smiled to the multitude as he rode in the open-air Popemobile through downtown Rio on Monday afternoon. His security detail had their hands full attempting to control the throngs of admirers that gathered around the motorcade. One woman even took advantage of a traffic jam to pass her baby through the window of the pontiff’s vehicle for a kiss from Francis.
"I want to see him and feel him close to me," said Carlos Alberto Fahd regarding the ex-Archbishop of Buenos Aires. "Francis is already changing the church with his simplicity," added the 23-year-old pilgrim who traveled from northern Brazil to catch a glimpse of the first Latin American pope.
Prior to the procession, the Pope took part in a motorcade that was occasionally surrounded by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff led a group of dignitaries at Rio’s main international airport. The group was then serenaded by a choir of about three dozen children; a fitting reminder that Francis’ visit occurs amidst the Church’s World Youth Day (WYD) festivities.
“The world crisis is not treating young people well,” the Holy Father told reporters on the plane travelling from Italy. “We are running the risk of having a generation that does not work. From work comes a person’s dignity.”
The Pope will attempt to use his visit to appeal to Catholic youth in a country where most young followers may not see eye-to-eye with some of the Vatican’s policies. An Ibope poll released today showed that 82% of Brazilian Catholics between the ages of sixteen and thirty years old support the use of the "morning after pill" while 56% of those surveyed back same-sex civil unions.
In addition, Francis will hope his trip can at least slow down the increased appeal of evangelicals in Brazil:
A poll from the respected Datafolha group published Sunday in the newspaper Folha de S.Paulo said 57 per cent of Brazilians age 16 and older call themselves Catholic, the lowest ever recorded…
Pentecostal evangelicals stood at 19 per cent of the population in the latest poll, rising from virtually nothing three decades ago by aggressively proselytizing in Brazil's impoverished slums.
Beyond the numbers who claim one faith or another is the huge gap in the level of participation in the different churches, a fervor factor that deeply troubles the Catholic Church. The Datafolha poll said 63 per cent of Pentecostal evangelicals report going to church at least once a week, while only 28 per cent of Catholics say they go to mass weekly.Authorities have increased security during the Pope's visit that occurs weeks after mass protests took place in several major Brazilian cities including Rio. Several smaller scale demonstrations are planned to be held during the Pope’s visit such as a “SlutWalk” for women’s rights and an anti-government rally in front of a building where Rousseff and Francis will hold a meeting.
As part of the week-long WYD event, which is expected to be attended by more than a million Catholics from around the globe, the Pope will lead a service on Copacabana beach, meet with young inmates at a Rio prison and inaugurate a local hospital wing for the treatment of drug addicts.
Video Source– YouTube via NTDTV
Online Sources – O Globo; NewsRadio WGOW; The Latin Americanist; CBC; Los Angeles Times; The Globe and Mail; The Telegraph