By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The World Youth Day (WYD) Catholic festival drew to a close in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday, July 28th as Pope Francis celebrated his final mass in Copacabana and bid goodbye to the pilgrims who had gathered in the city for his week-long visit.
“Do not be afraid to go and to bring Christ into every area of life, to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most indifferent,” Pope Francis said to the national and international pilgirms in attendance on Sunday morning.
Thousands of those pilgrims had spent the night on the beach as part of Saturday’s vigil.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Argentinian President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Bolivian President Evo Morales and several other South American dignitaries attended the pontiff’s last large-scale event in Rio.
Later, at a brief departure ceremony overseen by Brazilian vice president Michel Temer at Rio de Janeiro’s Galeão International Airport on Sunday evening, Pope Francis told those that gathered: “I depart with many happy memories which I know will nourish my prayers.”
“I already am beginning to miss Brazil, these great people showing so much affection and friendship. I shall miss the natural and warm smiles I have seen in so many faces.”
The Pope boarded his flight back to Rome at approximately 7:30PM, ending the pontiff’s first major international trip.
“The WYD was a complete success,” said Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes. “We lost by losing some battles, but the war was won,” Paes affirmed, referring to the many logistics problems that riddled the event during its first couple of days.
Vatican officials also echoed Paes’ sentiments, adding that the festival attracted more attendees than any previous WYD festival.
Read more (in Portuguese).
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