RIO DE JANEIRO — Despite jet lag, rainy weather and an intense schedule, Pope Francis shows no sign of slowing down as he meets with young people gathered for World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro.
Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, told reporters at the World Youth Day media center in Rio Wednesday that Pope Francis “hasn’t stopped at all,” and his continuous energy is “something that strikes all of us.”
The Vatican spokesman said Pope Francis has not lost any of his personal touch in Rio, even though his attention is demanded at every moment. Father Lombardi recalled when Pope Francis took time to meet with 30 cloistered nuns, who waited in the rain for him at Bom Jesus Seminary in Aparecida as he had lunch with the seminarians.
“The funniest thing is that one nun asked for the Pope to sign a book for her, and so he had to sign a book for all of them,” he said.
“One of them decided she wanted a picture with the Pope, with her arms around his neck, and so all of them had to have their picture with him, too,” he added with a laugh.
On Wednesday morning, Pope Francis began the day by visiting the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, where he consecrated World Youth Day and the pilgrims to the Virgin Mary.
“This has been a beautiful day, despite the heavy rain, and the Mass at Our Lady of Aparecida was a very important moment,” he said.
“It was quite obvious that the Pope was extremely happy, especially after seeing the crowd of 200,000; and he said, ‘See you again in 2017,’ which shows his real love for the place,” Father Lombardi said.
The Pope also paid a visit Wednesday to St. Francis of Assisi Hospital, where the Franciscans care for poor drug and alcohol addicts free of charge.
“Today, in this place, where people struggle with drug addiction, I wish to embrace each and every one of you, who are the flesh of Christ,” Francis said, “and to ask God to renew your journey, and also mine, with purpose and steadfast hope.”
The Holy Father’s intense schedule for Thursday began with a private Mass, followed by a 9:45am public event in Rio for the Pope to receive the keys of the city and bless the Olympic flags.
The Pope's schedule had him then visiting the slum of Varginha and meeting with 7,000 Argentinians at the cathedral around noon. The Pope's day would conclude with the opening ceremony for World Youth Day at Copacabana beach, where organizers expected around 2 million young people to attend.
All in a day's work for the Pope, but not without that personal, off-the-cuff touch Francis is known for.
“The Pope hasn’t prepared a speech for [the Argentinians], and this will be something improvised,” Father Lombardi said. “So it will be interesting to see his spontaneity in this occasion.”