Pope Francis has returned to Rome after his apostolic visit to Rio de Janeiro for the World Youth Day celebrations.
The plane carrying Pope Francis, Vatican staff and members of the press touched down at Ciampino airport this morning after a 12 hour flight.
According to reports, the Pope went immediately to the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore to pray. He offered gifts of a football and a t-shirt, given to him by children outside the church, to Our Lady.
Pope Francis also found time to tweet a message to his followers on Twitter. “I am back home, and I assure you that my joy is much greater than my exhaustion!” he wrote.
The Pope has shown remarkable stamina throughout his trip to Brazil, taking on a hectic schedule which included visiting the national shrine of Aparecida, touring a Rio favela, and presiding over a number of well-attended events.
Pope Francis took on his various engagements with such energy and enthusiasm that those working alongside him were made to feel the pace. During the apostolic visit, Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi joked: “I’m happy we’re half-way through because if it were any longer I’d be destroyed.”
Shortly before leaving Brazil, the Holy Father gave a final speech at Rio de Janeiro’s Galeao Airport. Brazilian President Dilma Roussef headed the delegation of political, community and church leaders that came to see him off.
In his address, Pope Francis thanked everyone for making this week “a splendid celebration of the richness and joy of our faith in Jesus Christ”.
And he expressed his gratitude for the work of event organisers and media operators. In particular he said his “gratitude goes to the many people who prayed, often in silence and simplicity for this World Youth Day to be an authentic experience of growth in faith”.
But above all, Pope Francis said, “my thoughts turn to those who are at the heart of these celebrations: the young people!”
He urged them to help build a civilisation of love: “Show, by your life, that it is worth giving your time and talents in order to attain high ideals, it is worth recognizing the dignity of each human person, and it is worth taking risks for Christ and the Gospel”.
The Pope concluded his farewell speech turning his thoughts to Our Lady of Aparecida and imploring Mary to strengthen all Brazilians in the Christian faith.
The full text of the Pope’s farewell address follows:
Distinguished National, State and Local Authorities,Dear Archbishop of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro,
Dear Cardinals and Brother Bishops,Dear Friends,
I am about to leave your country to return to Rome. I depart with many happy memories which I know will nourish my prayers. Already I am beginning to miss Brazil, this great people showing so much affection and friendship. I shall miss the natural and warm smiles I have seen in so many faces, and the enthusiasm shown by the volunteers. I shall miss the hope filling the eyes of the young people in the Hospital of Saint Francis. I shall miss the faith and joy shown by the residents of Varginha in the midst of their hardship. I know that Christ is truly present in the lives of countless young people and in the lives of many whom I have met during this unforgettable week. Thank you for the warm welcome and the friendship that have been offered to me. This too I shall miss.
In particular, I would like to thank Madam President for expressing the sentiments of the entire population of Brazil towards the Successor of Peter. I warmly extend gratitude to my brother Bishops and to their many collaborators for making this week a splendid celebration of the richness and joy of our faith in Jesus Christ. I thank all those who took part in the eucharistic celebrations and other events, and I thank those who organized them and those who worked to broadcast them through the media. Finally, I wish to thank all those who in one way or another rose to the challenge of hosting and organizing the large numbers of young people. And not least my gratitude goes to the many people who prayed, often in silence and simplicity, for this World Youth Day to be an authentic experience of growth in faith. May God reward all of you, as only he can!
As I express my thanks and bid farewell, my thoughts turn to those who are at the heart of these celebrations: the young people! May God bless you for the beautiful witness of your lives and for your intense and joyful participation over these last few days. Many of you came here as disciples; I have no doubt that all of you will leave as missionaries. Through your joyful witness and service, help to build a civilization of love. Show, by your life, that it is worth giving your time and talents in order to attain high ideals, it is worth recognizing the dignity of each human person, and it is worth taking risks for Christ and his Gospel. It is he that we have come to seek because he first sought us. It is he who has inflamed our hearts with the desire to take the Good News to the large cities and to the small communities, to the countryside and to all the corners of this vast planet. I will always place my hopes in the young people of Brazil and in the young around the world: through them, Christ is preparing a new springtime all over the earth. I have seen its first fruits and I know that others will joyfully reap the full harvest.
Finally, my thoughts turn to Our Lady of Aparecida, to whom I also bid farewell. In that beloved Shrine I knelt to pray for the entire human family and in particular for all Brazilians. I implored Mary to strengthen you in the Christian faith, which forms part of the noble soul of Brazil, as indeed of many other countries; this faith is your culture’s treasure and serves as encouragement and support in the task of building a renewed humanity in harmony and solidarity.
As he departs, the Pope says to all of you affectionately: “see you soon”. He asks you not to forget to pray for him. The Pope needs the prayers of all of you. I offer you an affectionate embrace. May God bless you!