Pope Francis' first overseas trip as pontiff will be to Brazil where he is scheduled to visit a slum, meet juvenile prisoners, and pray at the country's national shrine, the Vatican confirmed Tuesday.
But contrary to advice given by some of the organizers, a stop in his native Argentina is not on the itinerary, increasing the likelihood that vast numbers will travel across the border to Brazil for the eight day visit.
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Up to 4 million people are expected to turn out to see the Church’s first Latin American pope during his July 22-29 trip, presenting considerable logistical challenges for the authorities. The main purpose of the visit is to celebrate the Catholic Church's World Youth Day — a six day festival of faith held every two or three years in a different city.
Another highlight of his visit will be to the Rio archbishop's palace by juvenile detainees, which will mirror his decision to wash the feet of young offenders on Holy Thursday.
The Pope faces an intense few days in Brazil. After arriving in Rio de Janeiro in the afternoon of July 22, he will be received by President Dilma Rousseff, a former Marxist revolutionary, and other dignitaries. A full day of rest with no engagements will follow, after which the Pope will be flown by helicopter on July 24 to the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, Brazil’s national shrine, where he will celebrate Mass.
After lunch there with bishops and seminarians, he will fly back to Rio where he will meet staff and patients at a local hospital named after St. Francis of Assisi, the saint from which the Pope took his name.
On July 25, after receiving the keys to the city of Rio de Janeiro, the Argentine pontiff will bless the Olympic flags at the City Palace ahead of Rio’s hosting of the 2016 Olympic Games. That evening, young people will welcome the Pope on the Copacabana beachfront and the Pope will give an address.
Also that morning Francis is scheduled to visit the Varginha favela, or slum, just north of Rio. As archbishop of Buenos Aires, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio used to regularly drop in on neighbouring slums and minister to the poor there. But he won’t be the first pontiff to visit a favela: John Paul II went to the Vidigal slum south of Rio in 1980. The late Polish Pope left his gold cross-shaped ring with the local community, but urged them to sell it so they could use the money to improve their living conditions.
On Friday, July 26, after hearing the confessions of some young people participating in World Youth Day, Francis will meet with juvenile detainees in the palace of Rio’s archbishop. This is also in keeping with his pastoral emphasis as cardinal and his advocacy for the poor.
From the central balcony of that palace, the Pope will pray the Angelus at noon and then lunch with a group of young people. In the evening he will pray the Stations of the Cross with young people along the Copacabana beachfront.
The Pope will celebrate his second public Mass during the trip, on July 27 in Rio de Janeiro's St. Sebastian Cathedral. A meeting with Brazil's leaders will follow, and then lunch with Brazil's cardinals and regional bishops. A prayer vigil will be held in the evening with young people.
On his final day, Sunday, July 28, the Pope will celebrate a large open-air Mass for the large numbers of youth and other faithful expected to be present. Meetings with representatives of Latin America’s bishops' council and World Youth Day volunteers will follow, before the Pope heads for Galeao–Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport where he will bid his farewell.
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The papal plane is expected to land back in Rome midmorning the following day.
Before he was elected, Pope Francis was not a great traveller. He only made his first visit abroad in 1970, when he travelled to Colombia at the age of 34. He once described himself as a "homebody," preferring to stay in his beloved Buenos Aires.
The Vatican has said no other papal visits are planned for this year.
Edward Pentin began reporting on the Vatican as a correspondent with Vatican Radio in 2002. He has covered the Pope and the Holy See for a number of publications, including Newsweek and The Sunday Times. Read more reports from Edward Pentin — Click Here Now
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