Legions of pilgrims have welcomed Pope Francis to Rio de Janeiro, lining the streets of the tropical city and stopping his car to touch Latin America's first pontiff. Crowds cheered as the 76-year-old Argentine stepped on the tarmac of Rio's airport to be met by President Dilma Rousseff before heading downtown and hopping on an open-top Jeep to meet the crowds. Pope Francis has come to Brazil, an emerging power with a shrinking Catholic flock, to promote his vision of a more humble church and to attend World Youth Day, a week-long event drawing more than one million young Catholics, reports AFP on Yahoo7.
Excitement about his first overseas visit brought thousands of people into the streets, chanting 'long live the Pope,' singing and waving the flags of Argentina and other countries. The Pope, whose decision to get as close as possible to the people made authorities nervous, crossed the metropolis in a small four-door car with his window rolled down.
Pilgrims stopped his convoy several times to shake his hand. Bodyguards struggled to control the crowd at times and the Pope allowed a woman to bring her child, whom he kissed. Pope Francis then climbed on his open-top jeep and waved at the faithful as he continued his journey among the crowds before talks with Rousseff at the Rio state governor's palace.
'We hope the Pope will bring us the renewal of faith and enthusiasm,' said Renzo Cicroni, a 23-year-old Argentine. 'To see all these young people together, it re-energises us.'
Anaia Betarte, a 17-year-old from Uruguay, said she came to "see change, something new, something refreshing."
Francis's decision to leave behind his bulletproof 'Popemobile' raised local concerns and Rio authorities have deployed 30,000 troops and police in the wake of massive protests. In recent weeks, more than a million Brazilians have taken part in the demonstrations against the cost of public transport, corruption and the billions spent on hosting the 2014 World Cup.
The Pope's message of a 'poor Church for the poor,' might play well in Brazil, which is now an economic powerhouse but still has millions living in the favelas (shanty towns) rising on Rio's hillsides.