Sunday, July 28, 2013

3 million for the Pope

3 million people gather on Copacabana beach for final Mass

A reported 3 million people turned out Sunday for Pope Francis' final Mass of his Brazil trip after camping out on Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana beach. Nearly the entire 2.5 mile crescent of the beach overflowed with people, some of them taking an early morning dip in the Atlantic and others tossing t-shirts, flags and soccer jerseys into the pontiff's open-sided car as he drove by. Francis worked the crowd, kissing babies, taking a sip of mate tea handed up to him and catching gifts on the fly. Even the normally stern-faced Vatican bodyguards let smiles slip as they jogged alongside his car, caught up in the enthusiasm of the crowd. “Jesus is calling on you to be a disciple with a mission,” Francis told the crowd. He added that the best way to evangelize the young is another young person, and that the Church needs their enthusiasm, creativity and joy. “Dear young people Jesus Christ is counting on you, the Church is counting on you, the Pope is counting on you!” Francis said.
Pope Francis with the statue of the Virgin of Aparecida

The Saturday vigil drew a reported 3 million flag-waving, rosary-toting faithful, who overflowed Copacabana beach. The attendance figure, given by local media citing the mayor's office, is higher than the 1 million at the last World Youth Day vigil in Madrid in 2011, and far more than the 650,000 at Toronto's 2002 vigil. Many of those watching the vigil had tears in their eyes as they listened to Francis' call for them to build up their church like his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, was called to do. "Jesus offers us something bigger than the World Cup!" Francis said, drawing cheers from the crowd in this soccer-mad nation. On the beach, pilgrims staked out their spots on the sand, lounged and snacked, and prepared for the all-night slumber party ahead of Sunday's Mass. At the end of the Mass, the Pope announced that the next World Youth Day will be held in 2016 in Krakow, Poland, possibly also in recognition of Pope John Paul II, who will soon be Saint.

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