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Pope Francis says Mass at Marian shrine, millions pack beach

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
July 24th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Nearly half a million Catholics have gathered on  Copacabana Beach to celebrate the opening of World Youth Day. The gathered throngs of people are looking forward intently to the arrival of Pope Francis on Thursday where he will lead Mass and address the world.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL (Catholic Online) - Pope Francis spent part of Wednesday saying Mass at the Marian shrine at Aparecida, after arriving by helicopter. The rural town was packed with thousands of pilgrims who came just to hear the first Latin American pope say Mass.

During his homily, Pope Francis talked about idolatry and the need to eschew modern idols. "It is true that nowadays, to some extent, everyone, including our young people, feels attracted by the many idols which take the place of God and appear to offer hope - money, success, power, pleasure," Pope Francis said.

At this time, Francis is returning to Rio where he will visit a hospital. During that visit, he plans to meet with kids in a drug rehabilitation program. Tomorrow he will finally arrive on Copacabana Beach where he will receive a rock star's welcome before at least 1.5 million people.

Yesterday, the opening Mass was conducted on the Beach, led by regional Church leaders.

Security has also been a concern for officials, but apparently not the Holy Father himself. At least 30,000 military and police personnel are on duty, according to government sources, working alongside Vatican services to ensure the Pope's safety.

On Monday, an improvised explosive device was found in a public restroom near the Marian shrine at Aparecida, but they say the device was small and crude, and didn't appear to be targeted at the Pope or pilgrims.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis remains unafraid. Although his secretary admitted to being scared on Monday, when their car took a wrong turn down a Rio street, and people began reaching in to touch the Pope, Francis appeared delighted and unafraid.

Of course, Pope Francis knows something his security forces may be paid to ignore - that is the protection of the Holy Spirit, which is undoubtedly present.

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