Pope Francis met by tens of thousands on first foreign visit as Pope to Brazil
In his first official visit as the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has returned to his native continent of South America to lead a vigil of prayers to an expected 2.5 million pilgrims in a trip that has gotten off to a chaotic start.
Arriving in Rio de Janeiro, he was lead from the airport before being repeatedly swarmed by pilgrims. The Pontiff’s driver was suspected of taking a wrong turn and as a result was caught up in heavy traffic.
While security could be seen to struggle to keep the crowd back, the Pope reacted calmly, opening his window, shaking hands and greeting those followers that managed to get close enough.
Controversy over the trip came from the police reaction to organised protests against the Pope’s visit later in the day.
At around 19:30, an hour after the Pope gave a short speech and met with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff at the Guanabara Palace, police are reported to have instigated an “overwhelmingly aggressive” attempt to break up the protesters. Protesters responded by throwing petrol bombs at police and a number of arrests were made.
Significantly, in the chaos of the initial protest, ten journalists were arrested by police, which caused a second protest outside the police station where they were being held. The journalists were eventually released from custody.
The Pope’s visit, which falls on World Youth Day, is in part targeted at highlighting the alienation of the world’s youth due to the global economic crisis.