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July 24, 2013

Pope to Visit to Shrine of Brazil's Patron Saint

by VOA News

Pope Francis resumes a hectic schedule in Brazil Wednesday, with a visit to a shrine in Sao Paulo state to venerate the Roman Catholic country's patron saint.

The pontiff will fly from Rio de Janeiro to Sao Paolo to celebrate Mass at the shrine of the Virgin of Aparecida, the country's symbol of Virgin Mary. About 200,000 people are expected to gather outside the shrine during Francis' visit, with nearly 2,000 police on hand to provide security.

After visiting the shrine, Pope Francis will return to Rio de Janeiro to meet with young prison inmates, visit shantytowns largely cleared of drug gangs earlier this year, and inaugurate a Rio hospital wing for the treatment of drug addicts.

The pontiff took part in a private prayer service Tuesday, while thousands of pilgrims gathered on Rio de Janeiro's famous Copacabana beach Tuesday for the opening mass of the World Youth Day Festival. More than one-million young Catholics are expected to descend on Rio to take part in Thursday's international celebration of World Youth Day.

The Pope 76, was greeted like a rock star upon his arrival Monday in Rio de Janeiro, cheered by thousands of people who lined the streets to view his passing motorcade. But the trip was marred by a major security lapse after his car took a wrong turn onto a busy street and was mobbed by well wishers.

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Analysts acknowledged serious security lapses, but they said the wishes of the pope to be out among the public made it difficult to ensure full protection. Throughout the ordeal, the pope himself appeared upbeat and kept his car window open to greet the crowds that swarmed his motorcade.

The visit to Brazil, and his return to his home continent of South America, is the first foreign trip for the former Argentine-born Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was elected pope in March.