Pope Francis’ first trip abroad, to Brazil, is being hailed as a success by prelates of the Roman Catholic Church. Critics say that so far, however, the new pope has brought a change of style, not substance.
He carried his own bag during his travels, and he visited a slum in Rio de Janeiro.
And his message to his young followers sounded downright subversive.
“Be revolutionaries. I ask you to swim against the tide. Yes, I am asking you to rebel.” he said.
On his way back to Rome, the pope spoke to reporters at length about difficult issues, including gay priests.
“If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge him," he asked.
The pope did not negate Church teaching that homosexuality is a sin. But his words do reflect a more compassionate approach to controversial issues than that of his predecessors.
Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, which opposes the church’s ban on abortion and contraception, said, “It feels good as a Catholic to have a leader who’s not again talking to us about why we can’t use condoms; again he’s not beating up on gays; or he’s not saying that women who have abortions are bad.”
He said the rhetoric, though, needs to be followed by real change.
“And we’re not seeing a lot of movement by Pope Francis, about changing some of the teachings that are hugely problematic for Catholics,” he said.
Still, Francis' first trip abroad suggests that he has a way with large crowds of the faithful, not seen since the papacy of John Paul II.
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.