Bikinis make way for rosaries on Brazil beach as youths await pope

Tue Jul 23, 2013 7:32pm EDT
 
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By Philip Pullella

Rio de Janeiro (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of young Catholics from around the world flocked to Rio's famed Copacabana beach on Tuesday to kick off a youth festival that will feature several appearances by Pope Francis.

Bikinis and beach volleyball gave way to rosaries and prayers for world peace as youths settled on the urban shoreline for a night of religious events related to World Youth Day, a biennial gathering of young Catholics.

The 76-year-old pope, the first pontiff from Latin America, took a rest day on Tuesday after a tumultuous welcome during his arrival on Monday that prompted security concerns when police failed to contain frenzied crowds that mobbed his car.

As Brazilian officials worked to avoid a repeat of such incidents for the remainder of his weeklong visit, Catholic youth, waving their national flags and singing religious songs, gathered along the beach for an evening Mass.

Musicians and dancers entertained the youths, who braved a chilly drizzle. The beach, lined with a series of large monitors, was the site of an evening Mass by local priests and Vatican officials. Later in the week it will serve as an altar for two big appearances by Francis.

A metro malfunction in the evening left some stations out of service for two hours, leaving some people stranded on their way to the inaugural Mass.

Francis, meanwhile, rested at a Church residence and recovered from jet lag ahead of a rigorous five days during which he will preside at about a dozen events before returning to Rome on Sunday night.

The security scare on Monday occurred when his driver took a wrong turn in central Rio. The street had no barriers, which allowed a crowd of well-wishers to swarm the car and reach through the open window to touch the pontiff. Bodyguards moved in to push back the crowd. At one point, the crowd was so heavy that the car was forced to a halt.   Continued...

 
Pilgrims cheer, as policemen patrol on a deck and a Brazilian Navy ship patrols the coast ahead the World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro July 23, 2013. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes