Protests break out after pope’s arrival in Brazil
Euphoria leads to violence as protesters take to the streets
Riot police fire rubber bullets at demonstrators during clashes near Guanabara Palace where Pope Francis met President Dilma Rousseff in Rio de Janeiro, on Monday. Photograph: Pilar Olivares/Reuters
But after the euphoria of his arrival in Rio on Monday there was violence in the city that night. Police and protesters demonstrating against the city’s governor and the Vatican’s teachings on sexuality fought running battles with Molotov cocktails and rubber bullets close to where the official welcome ceremony for the pope had been held.
Pope Francis had asked to dispense with the usual motorcade escort afforded visiting dignitaries by Brazilian authorities and instead drove from the city’s international airport to a welcome reception hosted by Brazil’s president Dilma Rousseff in a lightly accompanied Fiat.
Despite reports that thousands of police and soldiers would accompany the pontiff on his week-long visit to Brazil for the church’s World Youth Day there was a limited security presence in the city centre.
With only a few agents protecting his car well-wishers were able to approach the vehicle after it was forced to slow down because of the numbers on the road.
At one point there were chaotic scenes as the pope kissed the baby of a woman who got beside his window and others were able to touch him as well. In the confusion, the car in front of the pope’s hit a police escort vehicle.
Later his spokesman Frederico Lombardi said the pope’s personal secretary, who was in the car with him, had been afraid of the tumult but the pope himself had not been, having personally asked to avoid militarisation of security during his visit.
However, Fr Lombardi said planning for the rest of the trip would now be reviewed. “We need to find the correct manner,” he said.
Pope Francis gave a clear signal in his first comments that he would not shy away from politics during his visit. In a short speech before Ms Rousseff and other Brazilian political leaders he called for better education so young people “can become all that they can be”.
Better quality public education was a key demand of the mass demonstrations by young Brazilians last month that rocked the country’s political class.
With more than a million pilgrims expected to travel to Rio for World Youth Day the problems of young people globally are set to be a key focus of Francis’s first foreign trip as pope.
Speaking to reporters accompanying him on the aircraft from Rome he warned of the social damage being wrought by the response of governments to the global economic crisis.
“Youth is in crisis,” he warned. “I read last week how many of them are without work and I think we are running the risk of creating a generation that will never work.”
He criticised what he termed a “disposable culture” that already excluded pensioners, warning that “now with the crisis we are doing the same with the youth. We need a culture of inclusion”.
After his flight on Monday the pontiff enjoyed a private day of rest yesterday. He will start the formal section of his trip today with a visit to Brazil’s national shrine of Aparecida, where police had to make safe a small bomb found near the sanctuary where he will pray.
Tomorrow he will open the main proceedings of World Youth Day, which runs until Sunday when he returns to Rome. As well as dignitaries and pilgrims from his home in Argentina, Pope Francis has also asked to visit one of Rio’s notorious favelas and will also meet a group of prisoners.