One wrong turn put the pope within reach of a sudden mob in Rio de Janeiro Monday. Soon after Pope Francis landed in the Brazilian city of 6 million for World Youth Day, his driver went on the wrong side of a 12-lane thoroughfare, creating a mob scene.
The pontiff's Fiat, which was leaving the airport, was supposed to take the left lane on the city’s Avenida Presidente Vargas, which was traffic-free. Instead, the pope’s driver inadvertently turned into the right lane, which was not lined with fences or uniformed police. The Fiat was forced to stop, and thousands of faithful crowded the boulevard, rushed toward the car and took photos of the 76-year-old pope with their cell phones, the Associated Press reports.
"His secretary was afraid, but the pope was happy, with his hand out the window waving," the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said. The pope reportedly kissed a baby a woman handed to him in the car, USA Today reports.
At an official welcoming ceremony at Rio's Guanabara government palace, Pope Francis described how moved he was by the warm welcome.
"I have learned that, to gain access to the Brazilian people, it is necessary to pass through their great heart, so let me knock gently at this door," Francis, who was born in Argentina, said. "I ask permission to come in and spend this week with you."
Lombardi said the mob didn’t pose any safety risks. "There are no concerns for security. The concerns are that the enthusiasm is so great that it's difficult to respond to so much enthusiasm for the pope. But there is no fear and no concern," Lombardi told reporters.
"That was only the happiness of the people, the affection of the people for the pope," Oswaldo Chaves, a 40-year-old Catholic who witnessed the mob scene, told Fox News Latino. "Any criticism would be wickedness against Brazilians."
Still, not everyone is enthusiastic about the pontiff’s visit. On Monday, São Paulo police found a homemade explosive device in the bathroom of a parking garage at a shrine that Francis is scheduled to visit later this week. When Francis delivered his speech at Rio's Guanabara government palace, he was greeted by protestors, who were later dispersed using water cannons and rubber bullets, the New York Times reports.
Pope Francis is visiting Brazil for World Youth Day, an international gathering celebrated every three years by Catholics. On July 25, the pope is scheduled to deliver a welcome address at a prayer service. On Sunday, July 28, he will participate in a Holy Mass and announce which diocese will host the next World Youth Day.
"Christ has confidence in young people and entrusts them with the very future of his mission, 'Go and make disciples,' " Francis said at Guanabara.