Brazil's security prepares for pope's visit, wary of violent street protests
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Sunday thanked the faithful in St. Peter's Square for their good wishes for his first trip abroad.
The pontiff departed from his prepared text during the traditional Angelus prayer and pointed to a large banner with “Buon Viaggio,” Italian for “Bon Voyage.”
“I ask you to join me spiritually through prayer on the journey I will begin tomorrow,” Francis said.
More than a million young Catholics are expected to celebrate with the new pope during World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro.
For Brazilian security officials charged with protecting the 76-year-old, his seven-day visit presents an uncommon security challenge.
Francis has built much of his schedule in the world's biggest Catholic country around high-profile events that send him straight into unpredictable, potentially chaotic environments — without the protection of the bulletproof popemobile used by his two predecessors.
On Thursday, the pope will visit a tiny chapel founded in 1971 in the Varginha slum, one of Rio's more than 1,000 hillside shantytowns. Many such slums cower under the control of dangerous drug gangs or deadly militias made up mostly of former and current police and firefighters. Police invaded Varginha in January to clear out traffickers, but the gangs remain a shadowy presence.
The next day, Francis will hit Copacabana beach to walk the Stations of the Cross among young Catholics gathered for World Youth Day festivities. Vatican officials have said he'll travel to the beach past thousands of devotees in an open-topped vehicle, a plan that would put the thousands of police and soldiers dispatched to protect the pope on high alert and require more plainclothes security.
Brazil's justice and defense ministers, along with a top army commander, urged the pope to use an armored popemobile instead, but the Vatican has responded that Francis likes to jump in and out of his vehicle to greet the faithful, which wouldn't be possible in the more protected vehicle.
“The bulletproofing would lessen our worries; it'd be better if he had it,” said Gen. Jose Abreu, the top officer overseeing the military's role in the security scheme. “It's a personal choice, and we'll respect it, but it's not remotely pleasant for security forces.”
On the top of everyone's minds are the enormous and sometimes violent anti-government protests that swept Brazil last month.
But Francis insists on keeping his visit simple. At the church residence where he will stay in Rio, the pope will have a spartan room with only a nondescript cross on the wall. He will sleep in a single bed. His meals will not be elaborate, said Irma Terezinha Fernandes, who is overseeing the kitchen.
“It's Brazilian food, rice, beans, a churrasco,” she said, referring to Brazilian-style barbecued beef. With a light giggle, she said, “He's the same as before he became pope. He's fine with simplicity.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- U.S. Marine found guilty of killing transgender Filipino
- After U.S. indictments, Chinese military scalesc back hacks on American industry
- World leaders show willingness to act at climate change summit
- Pope Francis visits mosque in war-torn Central African Republic, calls for end to conflict
- Northern Ireland’s restrictive abortion law ‘breaches human rights,’ court rules
- Palestinian artist who appealed blasphemy sentence of 800 lashes, prison sentenced to execution
- Turkey shoots down Russian jet it says violated its airspace
- Israel suspends contact with some EU groups over labels on exports
- EU expects ‘immediate’ clampdown on migrants in $3.2B deal with Turkey
- Senators call for 20,000 more troops in Syria and Iraq
- Obama: Climate pact an ‘act of defiance’ after Paris attacks