Pope Francis drew a reported three million flag-waving faithful to Rio's Copacabana beach on Saturday for the final evening of World Youth Day, hours after he chastised the Brazilian church for failing to stem the 'exodus' of Catholics to evangelical congregations, reports AP in The Sydney Morning Herald.
The Pontiff also urged Brazilians to turn to dialogue, rather than violence, as it seeks to tackle its economic disparity and to show greater respect for the Amazon rainforest and the indigenous peoples who live there.
Francis headed into the final hours of his first international trip riding a remarkable wave of popularity: By the time his open-sided car reached the stage for the vigil service Saturday night, the back seat was piled high with soccer jerseys, flags and flowers tossed to him by adoring pilgrims lining the beachfront route.
'Jesus offers us something bigger than the World Cup!' Francis said, drawing cheers from the crowd in this soccer-mad nation.
In the longest and most important speech of his four-month pontificate, Francis took a direct swipe at the 'intellectual' message of the church that so characterised the pontificate of his predecessor, Benedict XVI.
Speaking to Brazil's bishops, he said ordinary Catholics simply don't understand such lofty ideas and need to hear the simpler message of love, forgiveness and mercy at the core of the Catholic faith.
'At times we lose people because they don't understand what we are saying, because we have forgotten the language of simplicity and import an intellectualism foreign to our people,' he said.
Pope Francis also urged Brazilians to rely on dialogue instead of violence, as the country with the world's biggest Catholic population grappled with its largest street protests in decades.
Francis takes his youth message to Copacabana beach (Australian)