During Pope Francis' excursion Monday in Rio de Janeiro, his car got stuck in traffic, and his driver made a wrong turn amid the chaos of ecstatic crowds. It was a nightmare for the pope's security team. The pope, however, got a kick out of it.
As Associated Press reported, there were no uniformed police in sight. The bulletproof popemobile was back in Rome. It was the pope, about three dozen security people and hordes of fervent fans.
Pope Francis, who has made an impression as a humble pontiff who likes getting close to his followers, got extremely close to the crowds, rolling down his window and kissing a baby. Some were worried about the pope's safety, but "the pope was happy," the Rev. Federico Lombard, a papal spokesman, told AP.
The worries are not unfounded. AS CNN reported Monday, a homemade explosive device was found near a spot where the pope is scheduled to visit Wednesday. The small plastic cylinder, bound with duct tape, was found near the Our Lady of Aparecida shrine, according to the news outlet. It was detonated by police.
Meanwhile, anti-government protests continued. After the pontiff's meeting Monday with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, protesters reportedly angry over the $53 million being spent on the weeklong visit clashed with riot police.
In coming days, a gay-rights group has planned a kiss-in during the pope's speech Thursday on Copacabana beach, and a women's rights group plans a "slut walk" Saturday to protest sexual violence against women.
But many more Brazilians plan to cheer the pope's presence. As The Times' Vincent Bevins and Tracy Wilkinson reported Monday, on his first official trip since becoming pope, Francis was welcomed by a flag-waving, dancing, singing crowd of thousands.
The Argentine-born pope went to Brazil to attend World Youth Day, an annual international gathering of young Catholics. There are high expectations in Brazil and throughout Latin America among many who are looking for the church to reengage with the region's pressing social issues.
Rousseff said at Monday's official welcoming ceremony for the pope: "We know that in you, we have a religious leader who is sensitive to the yearnings of our people for social justice, and for opportunities for all."
"We struggle against a common enemy: inequality in all its forms," she said.
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