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Pope rests in Rio after tumultuous greeting

Catholic World News - July 23, 2013

Pope Francis spent July 23 resting quietly in Rio de Janeiro, restoring his energy after the long flight from Rome. Vatican officials did their best to relax, too, after worrisome scenes when the Pope first arrived in Brazil.

The Pope’s car was surrounded by excited crowded on several occasions as the papal motorcade made its painfully slow progress from the airport on Monday afternoon. Security officials were clearly worried, but “the Pope was happy” to greet the crowds, said the papal spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi.

The cheerful but unruly greeting left police and World Youth Day (WYD) organizers somewhat nervous about the prospects for the Pope’s stay in Brazil. In a country already uneasy due to political demonstrations, the wild show of enthusiasm for the Pope was welcome but still unsettling.

Pope Francis, however, appeared completely unruffled by the crowd scenes, and thoroughly at home on his native continent. Finally arriving at the presidential palace, the Pontiff made the first formal remarks of his stay:

I have learned that, to gain access to the Brazilian people, it is necessary to pass through its great heart; so let me knock gently at this door. I ask permission to come in and spend this week with you.

Speaking to Brazilian political leaders, the Pope reminded that “the principal reason for my visit to Brazil goes beyond its borders.” The centerpiece of his stay will be World Youth Day, he said. He added that he would challenge young Catholics: “Go beyond the confines of what is humanly possible and create a world of brothers and sisters!” While talking with young people at WYD, the Pope continued, he would also be reaching out to “their families, their local and national church communities, the societies they come from, and the men and women upon whom this new generation largely depends.”

On Wednesday, July 24, Pope Francis was scheduled to visit the shrine or Our Lady of Aparecida. Adding to the tension felt by his security detail, a small bomb was detected and defused at the shrine before the papal visit. (See today’s separate CWN headline story.)

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