Pope Francis decries money and power in his first mass in Latin America
Pope Francis has led his first mass since returning to his native Latin America, warning the faithful against “ephemeral idols” like money and power at Brazil’s most revered shrine.
Tens of thousands of pilgrims who had braved rain and cold cheered when the Pope arrived at the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida in Sao Paulo state and entered its grandiose basilica.
“What joy I feel as I come to the house of the mother of every Brazilian, the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida,” he said in his homily.
The 76-year-old pontiff, who arrived in Brazil on Monday for the weeklong World Youth Day celebrations, is seeking to re-energise his young flock on his first overseas trip since becoming Latin America’s first pope in March.
The region is home to 40 per cent of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics but Brazil has seen its flock dwindle while Evangelicals gain ground.
In his homily, the pontiff urged pastors, parents and educators to “pass on to our young people the values that can help them build a nation and a world which are more just, united and fraternal”.
“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,” he said.
“Often a growing sense of loneliness and emptiness in the hearts of many people leads them to seek satisfaction in these ephemeral idols.
“Always know in your heart that God is by your side; he never abandons you.
“Let us never lose hope.”
Pilgrims brave rain for a glimpse of pontiff
An estimated 15,000 people packed the basilica for the mass while another 200,000 were expected to gather outside, with 5,000 police and soldiers providing security.
They waved flags as Pope Francis passed by in an open-top jeep, blessing the crowd after arriving by plane and military helicopter.
“Long live the Pope, long live the Pope,” the crowd chanted.
Pilgrims spent the night in the streets despite the foul weather, hoping for a glimpse of the Argentine pontiff.
“We want the pope to tell us there is hope for a better world,” 47-year-old Jose Antonio Rocha said.
“We also want Francis’ example to bring renewal to the church which sorely needs it.”
Joaquim Pedro dos Santos, 77, had arrived from Minas Gerais state on Tuesday.
“I don’t care about the rain, I want to see the pope in person even fleetingly in the street,” he said.
Tereza Souza, 62, said it was very important for her to see him because “he is such a nice man, very simple, a saint.”