“All together — show your faith!” the 76-year-old pontiff said at night before a crowd that local television commentators estimated at 1 million on the white sand of Copacabana. “Show your hope. Show love.”
He called faith “revolutionary” and asked: “Are you ready to ride this wave of revolution of faith?”
For many of the overjoyed faithful, the pontiff has started a revolution of his own — to reform a church many believe is staid and out of touch and to give voice to young people here in Brazil and as far away as Europe who are dissatisfied with their lives.
“The truth is that he’s the pope of a new time and is opening up a church, opening up a new church to everyone,” said Carlos Subelza, 28, a seminarian from northern Argentina. “He does what he says, and that wins him supporters.”
Lucas de Sousa Montes, 17, a high school student from northern Brazil, said he, too, thought the church would be transformed. “The pope came to revolutionize the church,” he said. “He came to fix what was wrong.”
The crowd at Copacabana — mostly people in their teens and early 20s, among the throngs from nearly 180 countries here for the biennial World Youth Day for young Catholics — was markedly different from the one that came out to see the pope at Rio’s Varginha slum in the morning.
Those in Varginha were poor, working-class, even from the underclass; and they watched, astonished, as Francis visited a speck of a Catholic chapel, held up a scarf he had been given bearing the name of his favorite Argentine soccer club and stopped to bless overjoyed people in the crowd.
The pope then strode into the modest home of a local family.
The throngs of faithful — as well as the many evangelicals in Varginha — could barely contain themselves as the smiling pontiff again showed his populist side on the fourth day of his historic visit to Brazil, the world’s biggest Catholic country.
“He’s so calm among the people there,” marveled a commentator for the Globo TV network as the pope visited with the family after his stop in the San Jeronimo Emiliani chapel. “What’s it like for people in that home? What might they do — offer him a cup of coffee?”
Wearing a plain white cassock, the pope then mounted a stage on a soccer pitch and told residents he had hoped to visit “all the barrios of the city.”
“I wanted to come knock on all doors, ask for a fresh glass of water, drink a coffee — not cachaca,” he said to laughs from the crowd, referring to the local hot beverage made from fermented sugar cane.
“Brazil is so big, it is not possible to knock on every door,” the pope went on. “So I chose to come here, to visit your community, a community that represents all the barrios of Brazil.”