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1.5 million Brazilians throng to see ‘pope of poor’

A huge crowd of 1.5 million Catholics greeted Pope Francis on Brazil’s Copacabana beach on Thursday after the pontiff toured a notorious Rio slum to defend the cause of the poor. Latin America’s first pope was confronted with starkly contrasting images of life in the tropical metropolis on the fourth day of his visit to Brazil, from its ritzy seafront to its impoverished hillside favelas. 

A teeming swathe of young Catholics joined dancers swaying to samba beats on Copacabana for World Youth Day, braving cold rain and wind to cheer the Argentine-born pope who has championed a ‘poor Church for the poor.’ ‘I always heard that the Cariocas (Rio residents) didn’t like cold and rain. Your faith is stronger than cold and rain. Congratulations,’ the pope said after being treated to religious choirs, samba songs and dance routines. 

Pope Francis repeated a theme of his visit, urging young Catholics to shun the trappings of materialism and put Jesus Christ at the center of their lives. ‘Possessions, money and power can give a momentary thrill, the illusion of being happy, but they end up possessing us and making us always want to have more, never satisfied,’ he said.

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