Pope Francis urges youth to reject ‘fleeting idols’
Pontiff given rapturous reception by Brazilian faithful
Pope Francis reaches out to kiss a child as he arrives at the Aparecida basilicia in Brazil yesterday. Photograph: AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis
Pope Francis urged young people to turn their backs on “fleeting idols” such as money and success and instead to become “protagonists in the construction of a better world” during the first homily of his week-long trip to Brazil.
He was speaking yesterday during Mass at the marian sanctuary of Aparecida, Brazil’s national shrine, ahead of his participation at the Catholic Church’s World Youth Day gathering in Rio de Janeiro this week.
The Argentinian pope received another rapturous reception from his Brazilian faithful following the enthusiasm of the crowds that greeted his arrival in Rio de Janeiro on Monday. Though just three days into his trip, it is already clear that Latin America’s first pontiff is generating considerably more enthusiasm among Brazilian Catholics than Pope Benedict did during his visit to the country in 2007.
During the Mass, the pope also praised the document produced by the Latin American Episcopal Conference held in Aparecida in 2007 as “a great moment in the life of the church”. As Cardinal Bergoglio, the pope was one of the main authors of the text which called on the church to adopt a missionary stance and seek out the faithful.
The text was the Latin American church’s most considered response to the challenge posed by new evangelical Protestant sects which have drawn millions of the region’s Christians away from Rome in recent decades.
After Mass, the congregation chanted the pope’s name as the stopped to bless a group of sick and disabled people in wheelchairs. He then spoke from a balcony to an estimated 200,000 pilgrims who had accompanied the Mass in miserable weather outside the basilica, promising them he would return to Brazil in 2017.
The organisers of World Youth Day are worried that the winter rains which have affected south-eastern Brazil could turn the site of the event’s main Mass — a large field in the western suburbs of Rio — into a mudbath.
‘Field of the Faithful’
On Tuesday, 50 truckloads of gravel was scattered over the site in Guaratiba, renamed the ‘Field of the Faithful’ for the event. Presidents Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, Cristina Kirchner of Argentina and Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela are expected at the site to attend Sunday’s Mass, the high point of the week’s celebrations.
More than 335,000 pilgrims have officially registered to take part in World Youth Day, whose main events are in fact spread over four days. Hundreds of thousands more are expected in Rio for when the pope first addresses the crowds on Copacabana beach later today.