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Cheers for Pope Francis

· A characteristically Cariocan welcome in the streets of the city ·

His arms wide open to hold close “all of Brazil in its human, cultural and religious complexity and richness”, having just arrived in Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis has already won the hearts of all. An atmosphere of “torcida”, the festive cheering in stadiums to the rhythm of the samba, met the papal procession on the road from Galeão Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport — where he landed at 4:00 pm on Monday, 22 July — to Guanabara Palace, the venue of official welcome ceremonies.

The Pope’s car was escorted along the way, lined on both sides by uncontainable crowds, slowing it down and even stopping it. The Pope used a normal car and then an open jeep, until the Brazilian authorities advised him to board a helicopter in the old stadium of the Fluminese football team in order to get to the Guanabara Palace area where a political demonstration — not about the papal visit — was in full swing.

Singing, clapping, dancing: nothing was missing from the characteristic choreographies with which Brazilians know how to regale the visitor’s eye. And the Latin American Pontiff reciprocated this warmth with his enthusiastic approach.

Ever smiling, his hand was outside the car window whenever the procession was blocked or there was a detour. He even got out on his own initiative to greet some children. With his extraordinary energy, the few hours he has spent in public have already enabled him to tune in with the Brazilians.

As he said in his first speech, he came to “knock gently at this door”, the door of young people’s hearts. But through them also families and the communities they belong to, he added, reproposing the “pact” between the old and new generations, for which he had expressed the wish to the journalists on the flight.

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