Pope Francis has met thousands of pilgrims at Copacabana beach, in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro, to hold the greeting ceremony for World Youth Day.
After arriving by helicopter, Pope Francis drove along the 2.5 miles of the beach, stopping many times to greet the crowd.
An estimated 1 million pilgrims attended the event, following a papal visit to a shanty town, or favela.
Meanwhile, bad weather has forced this weekend’s events to be moved from a drenched farm on the outskirts of Rio.
A site set up at a farm on the western outskirts of the city for Saturday’s vigil and Sunday’s service, where up to 2 million people are expected, was covered with mud and puddles after two days of relentless rain.
The authorities have announced that these events will now also take place at Copacabana beach.
Hours before Pope Francis arrived at Copacabana on Thursday, young pilgrims started gathering along the beach.
“I’ve always heard that Cariocas [Rio-born people] did not like the cold or the rain. But you are showing your faith is stronger. Well done!” Pope Francis joked with the crowd at the start of his address.
Groups resembling Olympic delegation were holding up the flags of their countries and many were carrying the distinct World Youth Day backpacks in yellow, green or blue, the colors of the host-country’s flag.
Pope Francis has met thousands of pilgrims at Copacabana beach to hold the greeting ceremony for World Youth Day
Big screens were set up on the sand and the rain stopped before the event.
On the fourth day of his visit to Brazil, the first international trip of his papacy, Pope Francis also addressed Argentine faithful in Rio’s cathedral.
During the event, the pontiff told pilgrims to take to the streets and “stir things up”.
“I expect a messy World Youth Day. But I want things messy and stirred up in the congregations, I want you to take to the streets. I want the Church to take to the streets,” the Argentine-born pope told the crowd.
Before the meeting with his fellow countrymen, Pope Francis blessed the new altar at a tiny church and hugged and kissed locals who crowded the Varginha community streets.
Security was tight in the shanty town, which is part of the larger Manguinhos favela, one of the many hillside shanty towns which surround Rio.
Helicopters and sharpshooters were on patrol as Pope Francis visited the area while school children waved flags and held up balloons.
The Brazilian government has made the “pacification” of these communities, once a byword for poverty, crime and drugs, one of its priorities.
Heavily-armed police have moved into some of the more lawless favelas, including Varginha, to “flush out” the criminals and drug dealers who controlled large swathes of these communities.
According to official estimates, more than 20% of the population of the city live in favelas.
Pope Francis, who has called for a “Church of the poor” and who during his time as Archbishop of Buenos Aires regularly visited some of the poorest areas of that city, specifically asked for a favela to be included in his schedule.
Locals say the government’s policy of sending large numbers of police to the area has gone some way towards calming the area, but not enough.
The visit comes just a day after Pope Francis said it was key to tackle the roots of drug abuse rather than consider legalizing them.
At a Mass at the shrine of Aparecida, the Pope also warned tens of thousands of faithful against the “passing idols” of money, power and pleasure.
Pope Francis has warned against drug legalization plans in Latin America during the inauguration of a clinic for drug addicts in Rio de Janeiro.
The roots of drug abuse should be tackled, he said on the third day of his visit to Brazil.
Uruguay is close to allowing the legal sale of marijuana, with other countries pondering similar liberalization.
Earlier, the Argentine-born pontiff celebrated the first Mass of his trip, at the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida.
He warned tens of thousands of faithful against the “passing idols” of money, power and pleasure.
After the visit to Aparecida, in the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo, the pope flew back to Rio de Janeiro.
At the inauguration of a drug rehabilitation clinic at the Sao Francisco hospital, he hugged former addicts and heard their stories.
Pope Francis has warned against drug legalization plans in Latin America during the inauguration of a clinic for drug addicts in Rio de Janeiro
“It is necessary to tackle the problems which are at the root of drug abuse, promoting more justice, educating the youth with the values that live in society, standing by those who face hardship and giving them hope for the future,” Pope Francis said.
Pope Francis also warned against plans to legalize drugs in Latin America and condemned drug-traffickers.
“How many dealers of death there are that follow the logic of power and money at any cost! The scourge of drug-trafficking, that favors violence and sows the seeds of suffering and death, requires of society as a whole an act of courage,” he said.
Leaders in Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador and others have spoken for softer stances on drugs policy.
In Uruguay, a project decriminalizing marijuana sale is set to be voted in Congress next week.
President Jose Mujica says its main goal is combating drug trafficking.
On Monday Pope Francis faced chaotic scenes as he arrived in Rio de Janeiro.
The pontiff is in Brazil to attend the Roman Catholic World Youth Day festival. It is his first trip abroad since becoming head of the Catholic Church in March.
The highlight of the five-day festival will be a prayer service on Rio’s iconic Copacabana Beach on Thursday.
Pope Francis has arrived at the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida in the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo to hold the first Mass of his trip to Latin America.
The pontiff traveled to the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida by plane and helicopter.
On Monday Pope Francis faced chaotic scenes when crowds mobbed his car as he arrived in the city of Rio de Janeiro.
He is in Brazil to attend the Roman Catholic World Youth Day festival. It is his first trip abroad since becoming head of the Catholic Church in March.
The highlight of the five-day festival will be a prayer service led by Pope Francis on Rio’s iconic Copacabana Beach on Thursday.
The pontiff’s visit is taking place under tight security, after weeks of protests against the government and corruption.
Thousands of pilgrims arrived in the rural town of Aparecida ahead of Wednesday’s Mass, scheduled to take place at 10:30 local time at the basilica holding the shrine.
A homemade explosive device was discovered there on Sunday, but authorities said it was “of low power” and not near the area where the Pope and pilgrims will visit.
Pope Francis has arrived at the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida in the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo to hold the first Mass of his trip to Latin America
The Vatican later insisted that the discovery was no cause for concern.
Pope Francis is expected to fly back to Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday afternoon to visit a hospital and address young people taking part in a drug rehabilitation program.
On Tuesday, around 400,000 Roman Catholics joined a ceremony on Copacabana Beach to mark the opening of World Youth Day.
There was transport chaos shortly before the event when the Rio metro system was brought to a standstill for two hours by a power cut.
Crowds of people hoping to attend the Mass were left stranded, while others crammed onto buses and taxis heading to the beach.
Travel chaos also ensued on Monday when the pontiff’s car became stuck in one of Rio’s infamous traffic jams, after his driver reportedly took the wrong turn and missed lanes that had been cleared by the security services.
Correspondents said Brazil was reviewing security around the pontiff following the incident.
Pope Francis, who is from neighboring Argentina, was officially welcomed at the state governor’s palace by Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff on Monday.
However, police later fired tear gas to disperse people who were demonstrating outside. They were protesting against the government and also against the cost of the papal visit.
More than a million young Catholics are expected to gather in Rio for World Youth Day, which takes place every two years, and is a celebration of the Catholic faith.
Some 30,000 army and police are on duty throughout the Pope’s visit.
The famous Maracanã football stadium, the venue for the 1950 World Cup, is being redeveloped for the 2014 finals, which Brazil is also hosting, and the 2016 Olympic opening and closing ceremonies
Football will also be held in cities across the country – São Paulo, Brasília, Belo Horizonte and Salvador.
The famous Maracanã football stadium, the venue for the 1950 World Cup, is being redeveloped for the 2014 finals, which Brazil is also hosting, and the 2016 Olympic opening and closing ceremonies.
Organizers said construction was running on time and they were “delivering on our promises” to transform the city and transportation network.
They said London Games organizers LOCOG had been sharing with them information on how to organize a Games.
Some detail about Brazil’s eight-minute part of the London closing ceremony was also revealed.
It will feature diva Marisa Monte, model Alessandra Ambrosio, Renato Sorriso – a dancer and street cleaner who sweeps up between samba schools appearing at the Rio carnival, 82 drummers and the rapper Bnegao.
Rehearsals have been taking place in Greenwich and Dagenham, where the London ceremonies have also practiced.
Dancers will wear outfits including gold lamé flared bodysuits and the artistic directors said it would feature “pure samba” with roots in Brazilian percussion.