Massive crowd attends prayer service with pope
Young Catholic pilgrims attending World Youth Day on Copacabana Beach.
July 27th, 2013
04:58 PM ET

Massive crowd attends prayer service with pope

By Shasta Darlington and Eric Marrapodi, CNN
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Rio de Janeiro (CNN) - A massive crowd packed Copacabana Beach late Saturday for a prayer service with Pope Francis.

The pope addressed Catholic pilgrims who came for the weeklong World Youth Day celebration.

Organizers said 3 million attended the service. They cited the mayor's office and police for the crowd estimates, which nearly doubled the 1.6 million who came here for a 2006 Rolling Stones concert and matched the 3 million who came for the 2000 millennium celebration.

CNN could not verify the estimate.

As he drove to the stage in the popemobile, Francis was pelted with T-shirts, banners and flags from the increasingly adoring crowds being held back by barricades on both sides of the street.

The pope told young people in attendance that they were the "protagonists of the future."

"In your young hearts, you have a desire to build a better world," Francis said. "I have been closely following the news reports of the many young people who throughout the world have taken to the streets in order to express their desire for a more just and fraternal society."

He said protesters should be motivated by the values of the Gospel and to overcome apathy with "a Christian response to the social and political concerns present in their countries."

The prayer vigil had been scheduled for a field 30 miles outside of the city at "Campus Fidei," or faith field, but organizers had to move events to Rio because of flooding.

"Today too, as always, the Lord needs you, young people, for his church," the pope said. "You are called to build a more beautiful church and a better world."

Many camping overnight on beach

Flags from around the world dotted the beach and marked off territories for the pilgrims with their sleeping mats who planned to stay overnight on the beach in anticipation of a final Mass on Sunday with the pope to close out the event.

"This is what the church needs now. He just brought so much new energy and so much joy," said Yana Slovakia who was attending with her church St. Anne Catholic Community outside Houston, Texas.

"In a church that has experienced much hemorrhaging of membership, tonight is a clear indication that young people are still willing to consider this Church their home," said the Rev. Thomas Rosica, a Canadian priest who has been working with the Vatican communications team.

"Just as John Paul II's election sent high voltage shocks into the Communist regime and eventually brought it down, I think that Francis' election has also sent some serious jolts deep into the shallow sects that have caused some hemorrhaging of the church in this part of the world."

Earlier, in a stern speech delivered to Brazilian bishops on Saturday, Pope Francis chastised the church for losing many of the faithful to other denominations, saying they must work harder to be close to the flock and employ a "grammar of simplicity."

"At times, we lose people because they don't understand what we are saying, because we have forgotten the language of simplicity and import an intellectualism foreign to our people," he told the 300 bishops gathered for lunch.

The Vatican called it Francis' longest and one of his most important speeches to date. And it sets the tone for what can be expected from the pontiff's strategy for the Catholic Church as a whole.

Pontiff urges priests to get out of the office

Francis reiterated a familiar message, urging priests and higher-ups to get out their parishes and reach out to the people, especially those pushed to the margins of society.

Brazil has more Catholics than any other country, but the number has eroded in recent decades. According to a 2010 census, just 65% of the total population of 191 million considered itself Catholic, down from 74% in 2000.

In the same period, the percentage of Brazilians who considered themselves evangelicals grew from 15% to 22%.

On Saturday, Francis reflected on the causes.

"Perhaps the church appeared too weak, perhaps too distant from their needs, perhaps too poor to respond to their concerns, perhaps too cold, perhaps too caught up with itself, perhaps a prisoner of its own rigid formulas," he said.

"Perhaps the world seems to have made the church a relic of the past, unfit for new questions; perhaps the church could speak to people in their infancy but not to those come of age."

The pope arrived in Rio de Janeiro on Monday for the run-up to World Youth Day.

Before meeting with the bishops, he presided over Mass at Rio de Janeiro's Cathedral and then met with politicians and leaders of Brazilian society at the Municipal Theater.

The unpredictable pontiff even placed an indigenous headdress on his head briefly during the encounter.

Friday night, an estimated 1.5 million people turned out and the pope lead them in prayer.

Presidents and heads of state from across Latin America were scheduled to attend the final Mass, at which the pope is scheduled to announce the location of World Youth Day 2015.

CNN Vatican analyst John L. Allen Jr. contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Americas • Belief • Brazil • Catholic Church • Pope Francis • Vatican

soundoff (221 Responses)
  1. Blah

    All hail our dark lord Satan! Give your soul to him and join his dark army!

    July 28, 2013 at 4:24 am |
  2. kaz

    and the planet is chocking to feed and house people who believe in this non-sense despite the abundant knowledge humanity has mastered.

    July 28, 2013 at 3:12 am |
  3. Andy

    Think I'll go listen to some Tim Minchin. He's got a great song about the Pope.

    July 28, 2013 at 3:10 am |
  4. alateos

    Good for them. These people look happy. They are in heaven right now.

    July 28, 2013 at 12:57 am |
  5. Giggles


    July 27, 2013 at 11:55 pm |
    • M.R.

      Geriatric muddling? Scope of farthing out.

      July 27, 2013 at 11:58 pm |
    • Andy

      It's in all caps, it has to be right. lol

      July 28, 2013 at 3:06 am |
    • Oyster


      July 28, 2013 at 3:21 am |
    • logan5


      July 28, 2013 at 3:33 am |
  6. Common Sense

    “If every trace of any single religion were wiped out and nothing were passed on, it would never be created exactly that way again. There might be some other nonsense in its place, but not that exact nonsense. If all of science were wiped out, it would still be true and someone would find a way to figure it all out again.”

    ― Penn Jillette

    July 27, 2013 at 11:50 pm |
    • Bringtherain

      That man is a joke.

      July 28, 2013 at 1:22 am |
    • Tim

      You seem to forget the abuses of Science including Eugenics programs; sterilisation; labotomies for those with psychological illneses; abortion of foetuses with deformities; development of WMD; and how societies that lack morals have utilised science and technology for evil ends as in Nazi Germany.

      July 28, 2013 at 2:42 am |
  7. Dana


    Well said

    July 27, 2013 at 11:46 pm |
    • Bringtherain

      Catholic's believe in evolution dumb dumb.

      July 28, 2013 at 1:09 am |
      • Dippy

        Catholics, not catholic's. how old are you?

        July 28, 2013 at 1:36 am |
        • Bringtherain

          you are the anti christ athiest

          July 28, 2013 at 1:39 am |
    • k

      Bill Nye is hardly a scientist. How many technical journal articles has he authored? Zero. My point? His opinion is simply that of any other joe schmo ... unless you give extra weight for wearing a bow tie. In which case, you would place a high value on Tucker Carlson's opinion.

      July 28, 2013 at 6:02 am |
      • Rodents for Romney

        Nice try at deflection. You did not address ONE of his points. Why ? You can't ?

        July 28, 2013 at 11:07 am |
  8. Jesus F-ing Christ

    It's amazing that they could find a place to hold so many idiots.

    July 27, 2013 at 11:44 pm |
    • Giggles

      Just like the atheism church that are holding so many ldiots? LOL

      July 27, 2013 at 11:53 pm |
    • Bringtherain

      athiest will perish in hell and burn for infinite time, while your wife and daughter become my 72 virgins

      July 28, 2013 at 1:08 am |
  9. dávideee

    God Bless them all!! The Church is alive and well!

    July 27, 2013 at 11:44 pm |
    • Gawd

      How did you get your straight jacket off to type that?

      July 27, 2013 at 11:53 pm |
      • Bringtherain

        you must confess, science is a lie and darwin is the anti christ

        July 28, 2013 at 1:07 am |
  10. Giggles

    There is no God, atheists say, but here they are obsessed with God!!

    July 27, 2013 at 11:43 pm |
    • Dana

      Your mom is obsessed with my ball sack.

      July 27, 2013 at 11:45 pm |
      • Bringtherain

        your mothers tight tight will be one of my 72 virgins

        July 28, 2013 at 1:06 am |
  11. lionlylamb


    July 27, 2013 at 11:41 pm |
  12. Dana

    How stupid does someone have to be to believe in an invisible magician in the sky, talking snakes, people rising from the dead, magical ribs, etc?

    July 27, 2013 at 11:33 pm |
    • Giggles

      How stupid can anyone be to be so obsessed in talking about God when there is "no" God?

      July 27, 2013 at 11:44 pm |
      • Athy

        Oh, c'mon, Giggles. Go play with your toys and leave us grown ups alone.

        July 28, 2013 at 12:32 am |
        • Bringtherain

          Athiesim is a lie, science is the devil

          July 28, 2013 at 1:05 am |
        • Athy

          It's atheism, not athiesm.

          July 28, 2013 at 1:09 am |
        • Bringtherain

          your tight bum hole will be one of my 72 virgins

          July 28, 2013 at 1:11 am |
        • Bringtherain

          the athiest runs when faced with the truth, where the explanation for the big bang theory? athiest man, where is it? where is the proof of the big bang theory? how we know it just sitcom?

          July 28, 2013 at 1:18 am |
  13. If I had a penny for every stupid Republican I'd be rich!

    A star is born!

    July 27, 2013 at 11:31 pm |
  14. Gawd

    It's amazing how many gullible people there are in this world.

    July 27, 2013 at 11:23 pm |
    • Bringtherain

      science is a lie

      July 28, 2013 at 1:12 am |
    • Andy

      Like Bill Maher says, volume, volume, volume.

      July 28, 2013 at 3:09 am |
  15. Melenated boy

    I think when Christ spoke about the anti christ in the bible..this is what he was talkng about.

    July 27, 2013 at 11:19 pm |
    • Bringtherain

      Protestants serve themselves and will burn eternal in hell.

      July 28, 2013 at 1:20 am |
  16. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things.

    July 27, 2013 at 10:42 pm |
    • Observer

      The Bible says that at one point God torturously killed EVERY child, baby, and fetus on the face of the earth.


      July 27, 2013 at 10:43 pm |
      • Bringtherain

        it is about time someone put them in there place

        July 28, 2013 at 1:42 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      The result of someone's prayer, no doubt.

      July 27, 2013 at 10:45 pm |
    • Colin

      justice awaits all mankind. What will you do about your sin?

      July 27, 2013 at 10:47 pm |
    • Colin

      There is no mistake in judgment. God judges in righteousness that you cannot measure. What will you do about your sin?

      July 27, 2013 at 10:51 pm |
    • Dan

      Prayer makes you look like an imbecile.

      Religion is not healthy for little boys.

      July 27, 2013 at 11:01 pm |
    • John

      Neither is religion. It would seem craziness abounds-or evil remains, regardless of our wishes.

      I like Francis. I liked JP II. I liked JP I. I have little regard for any of the others. It is absurd to me that anyone should claim the mantle of Christ. Or worse, the mantle of that psychopath Mohammad. Or a mantle from anyone else who thought they were a leader in psychology or ethics or cosmology or TRUTH. I know it when I see it. And anyone who comes between me and MY god, to say they know more than I do myself, well, do not blame me if I slit them genitals to gibblets.

      July 27, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
    • Gawd

      Only a fool would still believe in an invisible magician in the sky and talking snakes.

      July 27, 2013 at 11:09 pm |
    • Bringtherain

      If only you people responded to each other, then you might get some good troll on troll action.

      July 28, 2013 at 1:28 am |
  17. lionlylamb


    July 27, 2013 at 10:23 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Shakespeare is a friendly sort but alas many know him not... A penny will no longer leverage open the skirted valor's seminaries of sequenced womanhood any more than of manhood's lamenting wayward vices... Keeping everyone's chastity as being held sacred is an elusive affair ever stoically to be and become the ravenous wolf's gainfulness...

      Though there be critical ones thinking among the topmost branches of civilizations trees of disparagement offerings: the rooted labyrinths of reasoned deducing ways offers little minded goodness to be availed unto the soulless seekers whose only wisdom is found within travesty's demonic exuberances laying ever wastefully towards all graven worded reconciliations that the demonic do behest against many a Holy Believer in and of God's most unrighteous beneficiaries as being an unholy divider in search of disenfranchised souls to devour and chew upon...

      The gullibility's pragmatists are relationally transcribed be they overtly religious and even of the mundanely inverted against anything religious... The ever hardening of bitterness offerings runs ever continuously upon the mainstreamed religious waters unending motions... For without believer’s sanctifications who would be the beneficiaries witnesses..? Does not a cold-heart seek ever the warmth of another's heartfelt wondering ways..?

      Assuredly does not truth come from the readings of the word and knowing of each and all words understandable meanings..? Where then does truth remain standing if meanings cannot be as meaning felt devotional understandings..? Do not many people stop thinking becoming themselves as mindless beasts ever to be herded here to there and made to eat this thing and drink of the other thing..?

      Toward my belief system, religion is a personal belief and should not be a sociable consideration... Anyone's beliefs upon religious conjuring séances should be held personally and not be centered by any socialism of the religiously clairvoyant which tends to conjure their weekly seminary séances upon the weakly enamored folks ever forsaking the doctrines oaths… Emotionalisms are where religious circles are deemed rented and the renters pay steeply for a yarn’s worth... Therefore keeps one's faith separated from religious teamsters who take and never give their folded flocks any causally rational explanations as to why there are reportedly many more of God's many sons then what Christendom so portends there to be…

      I am affirmed full of faithfulness in there being a God who has born many godly sons even Satan himself who must have been so handsome, the rest of God's sons saw Satan's beauty and they all fell down at Satan's feet for he was so handsome... Nowadays we creatures of the mists do no more exemplify many of God's first born sons and have taken sides against God's many sons and we have named Jesus as God's first born which I no longer stand up to believe anymore. Jesus if anything was God's last son to be born and bore by a human woman which makes Jesus out to be a half-breed. C'mon God! Tell us all your truths in all of your first born sons being so born when Chaos once did rule supremely..!

      July 27, 2013 at 10:25 pm |
      • M.R.

        Oh! Finangled euphemisms! Gladly reconciled manners.
        Bon appetite.

        July 27, 2013 at 11:55 pm |
  18. F the POPE

    FUUUUUCK THE POPE!!!! Antichrist, everything God hates! Mans religion mans idols mans way to God. Bunch of child molesters!

    July 27, 2013 at 10:11 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Don't try to hold it all in.

      July 27, 2013 at 10:43 pm |
    • Say it ain't so

      not wearing our favorite diapers today aren't we?

      July 27, 2013 at 10:58 pm |
    • jojo

      are those words your church teaches to use for others?

      July 28, 2013 at 1:04 am |
    • Rodents for Romney

      The gods have no human emotions.
      Anthropomorpic projection. They also require brain cells, circulating hormones, and space-time. Oops.

      July 28, 2013 at 11:10 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.