The opening Mass for World Youth Day took place last night on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro.
The mosaic of hundreds of national flags waving in the cold wind on Copacabana beach was symbolic, as pilgrims from all backgrounds, driven by a single faith, participated in the opening Mass for World Youth Day.
Rio Archbishop Orani Joao Tempesta officially opened World Youth Day with the evening Mass.
He said: “This week Rio becomes the centre of the church, alive and young. These youths’ enthusiasm show the face of the young Catholics. … I celebrate for all those who believe that a new world is possible.”
Police said more than 400,000 pilgrims braved the rain to gather on the beach. Some reacted with joy and tears when young people made their way up on the main stage carrying the Pilgrim’s Cross.
“Emotions are very high,” said Jose Leonardo Chacin, 27, an accountant from Maracaibo, Venezuela. “Especially since the pope is Latin American.”
At the beginning of his speech, Archbishop Tempesta remembered retired Pope Benedict XVI, responsible for choosing the city to host World Youth Day 2013. He later highlighted the importance of this first foreign trip by Pope Francis.
“This World Youth Day was destined to be … the first apostolic trip of the first Latin American pope in history,” said the archbishop.
In the crowd, thousands of Argentines cheered. Nearby, a small group of Canadians were ecstatic with the whole celebration.
After the Mass, the rain started to pick up, and slowly the pilgrims headed home. Tired and cold, many still smiled.