Analysis: Pope Francis made only one trip to Brazil to mark World Youth Day. Existentially, however, the outing was actually more akin to four trips in one.
Rio de Janeiro
World Youth Day: In a speech to Brazilian bishops, Francis acknowledged the reality of defections from Catholicism in recent decades and prodded the bishops to search their souls.
Before another ocean of Catholic youth on Rio de Janeiro's famed Copacabana beach -- dubbed for the occasion "Popeacabana" -- Francis on Sunday delivered another simple, pastoral message, expressed in three key charges he delivered: "Go," "Don't be afraid" and "Serve."
Sunday was the final day of the July 23-28 World Youth Day, and Francis celebrated the concluding Mass before a crowd estimated at 3.2 million by the local mayor's office.
Calling on young people to be "athletes of Christ," Pope Francis on Saturday addressed a vast throng gathered on Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana beach that was officially estimated by the local police and mayor's office, according to a Vatican spokesperson, at 3 million people.
Assuming that figure is accurate, it shatters the record of 1.7 million drawn to Copacabana by the Rolling Stones in 2006 and comes close to the 4 million people John Paul II was estimated to have attracted for the World Youth Day in Manila in 1995.
On papal trips, what one usually gets are pieces of a pope’s vision, meaning speeches targeted for special groups or occasions that beckon one emphasis or another. Every now and then, however, a pope has a chance to lay out his views in a programmatic fashion, and today brought one of those rare moments in a speech Francis delivered to Brazil’s bishops.
Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said today's speech was the longest of Francis’ papacy so far and, if not its most important, certainly "very significant."
By the time it’s all said and done, more than a million young people will have taken part in the July 22-28 World Youth Day with Pope Francis in Brazil, which means the story of the event is actually composed of at least a million individual narratives.
One of the more interesting of those narratives belongs to Bashar Khoury, a 29-year-old Latin rite Catholic from Syria, and his experience and outlook on life may contain some food for thought as Westerners ponder the conflict in Syria, especially its implications for the country’s Christian minority.
It’s a commonplace among Vatican-watchers that popes teach both by words and by gestures, that is, by what they say and what they do. Watching Francis in action, it may be necessary to add a third element to that list: Popes also teach by what they repeat.
When a pope says something once, maybe it’s a fleeting idea or something an aide prompted him to include. When a pope returns over and over again to the same theme, like a composer weaving a leitmotif through a piece of music, then you know it matters.
World Youth Day: Pope Francis has been in the spotlight for five days in Brazil, and no one brought up the church’s sexual abuse mess until he did so himself.
Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley has spent the last two decades dealing with the church’s sexual abuse scandals, so when he speaks on the subject, people listen – presumably, up to and including Pope Francis himself.
In April, Francis named O’Malley as one of eight cardinals from around the world to help him govern the universal church and to reform the Vatican, in part, perhaps, because of his profile as a reformer on the abuse crisis.
All Things Catholic: While Francis is making his triumphant homecoming to Latin America, there are three fires burning back in Rome, two of which erupted while he's been away.