Pope Francis celebrated Mass with 3 million people on Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana beach and told his flock to set out together to evangelize.
People from nations across the globe covered the beach after spending the night camped out for the Mass. Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff, her Argentine counterpart Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and Bolivia’s leader Evo Morales were among the millions in attendance at today’s Mass that concluded World Youth Day, whose theme was “Go and make disciples of all nations,” organizers of the event said in an e-mailed response to questions. Francis told his faithful that he is personally counting on them to spread God’s word.
“There are no borders, no limits to where Jesus sends us,” Francis said. “He sends us to evangelize to everyone, and not just those who appear closest, most open, and most welcoming. It’s for everyone. Do not have fear.”
The share of Latin Americans who are Catholic fell to 72 percent in 2010 from 90 percent a century earlier, according to a March report from the Pew Research Center. Evangelicals, part of the Protestant movement, made up 22 percent of Brazil’s population in the 2010 census compared with 15 percent a decade earlier.
Francis’ visit to Brazil marked his first trip abroad since becoming pope earlier this year. The gathering in Rio de Janeiro was smaller than that of the 1995 World Youth Day in Philippines, which drew 4 million people, according to organizers.
During today’s Mass, the pontiff said that the next World Youth Day will be held in Krakow, Poland, in 2016. A group of Polish attendees burst into jubilation, jumping up and down and hugging one another. It will be Poland’s second World Youth Day.