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Millions pack Rio's Copacabana beach for Pope's final Youth Day mass

Pope Francis drew a reported three million faithful to Rio's Copacabana beach for the final World Youth Day mass.

The massive crowd – more than double that drawn for a free Rolling Stones concert in 2006 – came hours after he chastised the Brazilian Church for failing to stem the "exodus" of Catholics to evangelical congregations.

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 on Saturday night, the back seat was piled high with football shirts, flags and flowers tossed to him by pilgrims lining the route.

On the beach, worshippers staked out their spots on the sand, lounged and snacked, preparing for an all-night party ahead of the final Mass.

Many of those at the vigil had tears in their eyes, moved by the Pope's call for them to build up their Church like his namesake, St Francis of Assisi, was called to do.

"Jesus offers us something bigger than the World Cup," he told the cheering crowd in this football-mad nation.

The vigil capped a busy day for the pontiff in which he drove home a message he has emphasised throughout the week in speeches, homilies and off-the-cuff remarks: the need for Catholics, lay and religious, to shake up the status quo, get out of their stuffy sacristies and reach the faithful on the margins of society or risk losing them to rivals.

In the longest and most important speech of his four-month pontificate, Francis took a direct swipe at the "intellectual" message that characterised the rule of his predecessor, Benedict XVI.

Speaking to Brazil's bishops, he said ordinary Catholics simply do not understand such lofty ideas and need to hear the simpler message of love, forgiveness and mercy that is at the core of the Catholic faith.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph