Pope Francis heads a prayer vigil with Catholic pilgrims attending World Youth Day, at Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday (Sunday in Manila). AFP PHOTO

RIO DE JANEIRO: Pope Francis joined two million young pilgrims in a prayer vigil on Rio’s Copacabana beach on Saturday (Sunday in Manila), voicing support for youths protesting for change.

“The young people in the street are the ones who want to be actors of change. Please don’t let others be actors of change,” he urged young Roman Catholics.

The Pope made the remarks in a country where young people spearheaded nationwide street protests by more than one million Brazilians last month demanding better public services and an end to corruption.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said two million people turned up for the vigil, which marked the third night in a row that the charismatic Argentine managed to draw mammoth crowds on the Copacabana beachfront.

Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes said he expected up to three million people to attend Sunday’s mass that will closed the pope’s week-long visit to the world’s most populous Catholic country.

Earlier the 76-year-old pontiff exhorted the Catholic clergy to “seek and serve Christ” in the world’s slums, and reminded Brazil’s elite to confront social turmoil with “constructive dialogue.”

“Constructive dialogue . . . [is]essential for facing the present moment,” Francis told political, religious and civil society leaders assembled in Rio’s Municipal Theater.

“Between selfish indifference and violent protest there is always another possible option: that of dialogue,” he said.

After the speech Francis hugged several Amazon natives with pierced noses, body paint and straw skirts who were at the event.



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