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"Seeing the pope, seeing the Stations of the Cross acted out live, seeing all these young people from all over," she said as she and two friends plied the beach in search of a place to spread their sleeping bags. "It's overwhelming, just amazing."
Even the human statues, a fixture on Copacabana beach, were pious Saturday night, drawing crowds of picture-snapping pilgrims with their oversized angel's wings.
The Argentine pope began his day with a Mass in Rio's beehive-like modern cathedral where he exhorted 1,000 bishops from around the world to go out and find the faithful, a more diplomatic expression of the direct, off-the-cuff instructions he delivered to young Argentine pilgrims on Thursday. In those remarks, he urged the youngsters to make a "mess" in their dioceses and shake things up, even at the expense of confrontation with their bishops and priests.
"We cannot keep ourselves shut up in parishes, in our communities when so many people are waiting for the Gospel!" Francis said in his homily Saturday. "It's not enough simply to open the door in welcome, but we must go out through that door to seek and meet the people."
Francis' target audience is the poor and the marginalized — the people that history's first pope from Latin America has highlighted on this first trip of his pontificate. He has visited one of Rio's most violent slum areas, met with juvenile offenders and drug addicts and welcomed in a place of honor 35 garbage collectors from his native Argentina.
He carried that message to a meeting with Brazil's political, economic and intellectual elite, urging them to look out for the poorest and use their leadership positions to work for the common good. He also called for greater dialogue between generations, religions and peoples during the speech at Rio's grand municipal theater.
On a few occasions, he looked up at the gilded theater boxes almost in awe from the stage and seemed positively charmed when a few dozen young students of the theater's ballet school sat down around him. At the end of the event, the little ballerinas swarmed Francis, and he gave each one a kiss on the forehead.
Also receiving papal embraces were a handful of Brazilian Indians, dressed in their traditional, bare-bellied garb who lined up to kiss his ring. One man gave Francis a feathered headdress, which he gamely wore for a few moments.