Year of Youth 2018

Pope –acabana! Three Million Celebrate Closing Mass with Pope Francis

Last edited 29th July 2013

Pope –acabana! Three Million Celebrate Closing Mass with Pope Francis

More than three million people crowded onto one of the world’s most famous strips of beach to welcome the first Latin American pope and take part in the closing mass of World Youth Day 2013.

Torrential rain during the week forced a change of venue and Rio’s Copacabana beach became a pilgrim site for the youth of the world.

But no-one was complaining. In fact local reports say most thought this site was preferable and certainly more spectacular.

The mass was filled with original Brazilian music, colour, joy and prayer. And like everywhere Pope Francis has been he was greeted with great enthusiasm.

Looking out over the massive crowd that stretched kilometres down the beach, Pope Francis urged young Catholic to go out and spread their faith “to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most indifferent.”

“The Church needs your enthusiasm, your creativity and the joy that is so characteristic of you!”

The Holy Father’s non-stop agenda was followed live on television for the week he was in Rio. However it was the morning of the Vigil, before the Closing Mass that saw millions pour on to the beach prompting the locals to call it “Pope-acabana”.

At last there was a break in the weather. The day warm and sunny, an ideal beach day.

But instead of carrying beach balls and surfboards, the young people from around the world brought their sleeping bags, Bibles and rosaries.

A quick dip at the famous beach wasn’t out of the question but by late afternoon everyone had staked out their position and awaited Pope Francis.
Light fades quickly this time of year in Rio9 and by the time Pope Francis boarded his popemobile for the journey along the beachfront the beach area and stage were a blaze of lights.

Normally a short drive this trip took more than an hour as once again the pope stopped to wave, kiss babies, accept gifts and laugh with the pilgrims.

The prayer Vigil is one of the highlights of World Youth Day prior to the Final Mass the following morning.

Between prayers and reflections Pope Francis told the crowd; “Here in Brazil, as in other countries, soccer is a national passion.

“Now, what do players do when they ask to join a team? They have to train, and to train a lot. The same is true of our lives as the Lord’s disciples.

“Jesus offers us something bigger than the World Cup. You are the athletes of Christ.

“I ask you to be actors of change, keep overcoming apathy and offering a Christian response to the social and political concerns taking place in different parts of the world,” he said.

Pope Francis went on to encourage the youth to follow three most fundamental points – “prayer, the Sacraments and help your neighbour”. And he encouraged them to repeat it with him.

Following his address the Holy Father initiated the moment of Adoration to the Blessed Sacrament, the central part of the Vigil.

When he left Copacabana the majority of young people unpacked their sleeping bags and waited for the final event for World Youth Day 2013. The Closing Mass – and the announcement of the city for the next World Youth Day.

When the popemobile appeared again in the morning for the final journey to the stage and altar, the crowd was even larger.

The pilgrims had woken from their slumber on the beach where they spent the night wrapped in sleeping bags and flags. They were ready to give the Holy Father one of the biggest welcomes for a Papal Mass in recent history.

Local media spoke of a “rock star welcome” with Pope Francis “drawing more people than the Rolling Stones in 2006”.

The Vatican bodyguards jogged alongside the popemobile, by now resigned to the fact the crowds would come as close as possible and Pope Francis would stop and talk or accept gifts along the way. The people obliged, tossing WYD T-shirts, soccer shirts and caps into the popemobile. Scores of babies were blessed and kissed and many sips of mate taken by the Holy Father which were offered to him along the way.

However when the mass began it was prayerful and very moving. When a moment of silence and reflection was called for following communion the only noise was the sound of the waves falling onto the beach.
Pope Francis told the pilgrims; “Bringing the Gospel is bringing God’s power to pluck up and break down evil and violence, to destroy and overthrow the barriers and selfishness, intolerance and hatred, so as to build a new world,”

Then it was time to announce the city for the next World Youth Day. The red and white flags near the front of the stage were a bit of a give away. Pope Francis said World Youth would be held in Krakow, Poland in 2016.

The 29th WYD will return to the homeland of the man who instituted this incredible event – an event many advised him would never take off because the youth of the world wouldn’t come. Of course by 2016 John Paul 11 will have been canonised.

The numbers in Krakow could well challenge Rio.

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