Pope Francis is heading home to South America. The Pontiff was seen off from Rome’s Fiumicino airport by Italy’s Prime Minister Enrico Letta for his first visit outside Italy.
The Argentine born 76-year-old will preside over the Catholic Church’s World Day of Youth in Brazil at the start of his seven day trip. The visit will take place among heightened security.
Around one million young people are expected to greet him in what is the world’s largest Roman Catholic country. Crowds paraded along Copacabana beach front carrying the two symbols of World Youth Day, a cross and icon of the Virgin Mary. “We are the Pope’s young people,” they chanted.
Francis has shunned the use of bullet-proof popemobiles to allow him more direct contact with crowds despite the security risks. It’s reckoned about 22,000 security staff will be on duty during the seven days.
The trip, which will include visits to a favela and prison comes just months after a series of mass protests in the country over government policies and the economy.