Pope Francis, receiving another rapturous welcome in Brazil, on Wednesday urged young people to shun the “ephemeral idols” of money and pleasure, and cherish traditional values to help build a better world.
On the third day of his week-long visit for World Youth Day, a biennial Church gathering being celebrated in and around Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis landed by helicopter in Aparecida, 260 kilometers [161 miles] west of the coastal metropolis.
The city houses a shrine of the Virgin Mary that is venerated as the patroness of Brazil, home to the biggest Roman Catholic population in the world. It also is the site where Francis, then a cardinal in Argentina, cemented his place as a leader of the Church during a 2007 conference attended by Pope Benedict XVI.
The ongoing World Youth Day events, which are expected to attract more than 1 million people from around the world, are an effort by the Vatican to galvanize young Catholics at a time when rival denominations, secularism and distaste over sexual and financial scandals continue to lead some faithful to abandon the Church.
Security around the pope on Wednesday appeared much more organized than upon his Monday arrival in Rio, where adoring crowds at one point surrounded his car.
In Aparecida, where tens of thousands gathered for the pope's first public mass of the visit, Francis rode in a white popemobile with open sides and a transparent top. Security squads kept the vehicle safely within barriers behind which tens of thousands of ecstatic faithful cheered, sang and waved flags.
The pope's desire to remain simple and close to his flock has complicated security around his visit, especially after he used a modest Fiat hatchback for his ride into Rio from the airport.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said Vatican and Brazilian officials held what he called “a routine meeting” to discuss how the trip was going and made one change - that Francis would ride in a closed car from Rio airport to a hospital when he returns from Aparecida on Wednesday afternoon.
At the indoor Mass in Aparecida, one of Latin America's most popular pilgrimage sites, Francis urged worshippers to embody the faith of their ancestors and trust in God.
“Let us never lose hope! Let us never allow it to die in our hearts!” the pope said in Portuguese.
'Money, success, power, pleasure'
In his sermon, the 76-year-old pope warned the youth of his continent to avoid the snares of modern life.
“It is true that nowadays, to some extent, everyone, including our young people, feels attracted by the many idols which take the place of God and appear to offer hope: money, success, power, pleasure,” he said.
“Often a growing sense of loneliness and emptiness in the hearts of many people leads them to seek satisfaction in these ephemeral idols,” he said, speaking from a modern marble pulpit.
The pope's message of humility and rejection of the luxurious trappings of the papacy have endeared him to many Catholics and his first trip abroad has proved to be another boom to his image.
Young people, he said in his Aparecida homily, should be “a powerful engine for the Church and for society” and be given the conditions allowing them to “work actively in building a better world.”
At the end of the Mass, as worshippers chanted, “Francisco, Francisco, Francisco,” he walked around the basilica and comforted sick people in wheelchairs. He hugged several people, apparently old friends.
Return to Aparecida
He later joked with the crowd outside, asking their permission to speak Spanish instead of “Brazilian” and led the crowd, as he held the statue of the Virgin, in a prayer.
More than 5,000 police and other security officials were on hand in Aparecida, where young pilgrims, many draped in the flags of Brazil, Argentina, and other countries, endured rain and unseasonably low temperatures to ensure spots for the service.
Still, most had to follow the mass from outside the massive, modern basilica.
“I got here with my family at 2 in the morning,” said Antonio Carlos da Silva, a drenched prison guard from Sao Paulo. “I am so happy to come and see the pope.”
Aparecida is the place where Francis, then known as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, authored an influential statement during Benedict's visit that espoused many of the same values he has placed front and center during his five months as pope. The document called on the Church to return to the principles of humility and charity.
From Aparecida, Francis is scheduled to fly back to Rio and tour a drug treatment ward at a hospital run by Franciscan monks. Later in the week, he will visit a Rio slum, preside over services on Copacabana beach and over the weekend give mass at a pasture outside the city.
Francis is scheduled to leave Brazil on Sunday.
On Monday, police said they safely detonated a small, homemade explosive they found in the bathroom of a parking garage in Aparecida. It was unclear if the device, made with a plastic pipe wrapped in tape, was related to the pope's visit.
Pope Francis arrives to a farewell ceremony at the Rio de Janeiro airport, July 28, 2013.
People pack Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro for Pope Francis' final mass for World Youth Day, July 28, 2013.
Clergy attend a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis on the Copacabana beachfront, in Rio de Janeiro, July 28, 2013.
A pilgrim wakes up after a night of vigil in Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, July 28, 2013.
Nuns and a priest take pictures as Pope Francis arrives at Sao Joaquim Palace in Rio de Janeiro, July 26, 2013.
Thousands of young people gather at Rio de Janeiro's iconic Copacabana beachfront on July 25, 2013 for the welcoming of Pope Francis to World Youth Day ceremonies.
Pope Francis delivers a speech during a visit to the Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro, July 25, 2013.
People greet Pope Francis as he visits the Varginha slum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 25, 2013.
A crowd waits for the Pope to arrive at the Varginha slum in Rio de Janeiro, July 25, 2013.
A patient kisses the hand of Pope Francis at the Hospital Sao Francisco in Rio de Janeiro, July 24, 2013.
Thousands of young pilgrims gather on Copacabana Beach for a World Youth Day Mass in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 23, 2013.
Pope Francis greets the crowd of faithful from his popemobile in downtown Rio de Janeiro, July 22, 2013.
Youth from France, Venezuela and Canada who are in Brazil for World Youth Day events sing songs as they ride in a train that travels to Corcovado mountain where the statue Christ the Redeemer stands over Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 23, 2013.
Pope Francis kisses a baby while greeting the crowd of faithful from his popemobile in downtown Rio de Janeiro, July 22, 2013.
Pope Francis shakes hands with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff after receiving a painting of Rio de Janeiro during a welcoming ceremony in Rio de Janeiro, July 22, 2013.