Pope Francis arrived in Brazil on Monday, ahead of World Youth Day events where as many as 2.5 million people are expected to participate. The Roman Catholic Church's leader began his first trip abroad with an open-air drive through Rio Janeiro's historic center.
"It's so exciting to see the pope in our country," said Antonio Dantas, a 24-year-old seminary student from northeastern Brazil, as reported by Bloomberg. "I hope he brings a message of peace to all of us who make up the Catholic religion, but also people of other religions."
Pope Francis' visit takes the initial enthusiasm expressed by Latin Americans about having the first non-European pope in more than 1,200 years to the next level. He is visiting the world's most Catholic region. His visit occurs on the first World Youth Day to be held in Latin America since the first World Youth Day, which was held in Latin America 26 years ago, according to Vatican Radio.
During his first address on the visit, Pope Francis, speaking in Portuguese, said, "I learned that to have access to the Brazilian people, it is necessary to enter through the door of its immense heart. Allow me at this point to knock softly on that door."
Pope Franics is scheduled to tour a slum, meet young inmates and hold three public Masses during World Youth Day events July 23-28. The theme for the celebration is "Go and make disciples of all nations."
The pope told journalists during his flight from Rome that he is concerned about the high jobless rates for young people and "the risk of having a generation without work," according to Voice of America. He also was upset with the "culture of rejection" of the elderly, remarking that they should not be "thrown away" because of a society that cherishes everything new.
Pope Emeritus Benedict, who resigned the papacy in February, was originally planned for the visit to Brazil. Vatican analysts have previously described the trip as a way to showcase the social justice issues that Francis would like to make the hallmark of his papacy.