Rio de Janeiro: Pope Francis returned on Monday to the warm embrace of Latin America, landing in Brazil to begin his first international trip as pontiff.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff waited on the tarmac for the pontiff to step down the stairs from the no frills commercial airliner that was specially booked for him.
It was the first time the Argentine-born Francis had returned to his home continent since his selection as pope in March.
Earlier on the flight from Rome, Francis expressed concern for a generation of youth growing up jobless as the world economy sputters.
The message should resonate with the young people in the mammoth crowds expected at a papal Mass on Rio`s Copacabana beach and other ceremonies during Francis` seven days in Brazil, the world`s most populous Roman Catholic nation.
During his stay, the 76-year-old Argentine-born pontiff will meet with legions of young Catholics converging for the church`s World Youth Festival in Rio, a seaside Sin city better known for hedonistic excess. More than 1 million people are expected to pack the white sands of Copacabana for the Mass celebrated by Francis. He will also visit a tiny chapel in a trash-strewn slum, and make a side trip to venerate Brazil`s patron saint, Our Lady of Aparecida.
The pontiff is expected to arrive in Rio de Janeiro at 1900 GMT today.
During his flight from Rome, Francis warned about youth unemployment in some countries in the double digits, telling about 70 journalists aboard the papal plane that there is a "risk of having a generation that hasn`t worked." He said, "Young people at this moment are in crisis."
He didn`t specify any country or region, but much of Europe is seeing those gloomy youth joblessness numbers, especially in Greece, Spain and Italy. Brazil is in far better shape than European nations, with unemployment at an all-time low after a decade of economic expansion.
"I`m here for faith! I`m here for joy! And I`m here for the first Latino pope!" Ismael Diaz, a 27-year-old pilgrim wrapped in the flag of his native Paraguay, said as he bounded down the stone sidewalks of Copacabana hours ahead of Francis` arrival.
Diaz gave high fives to four fellow pilgrims, then turned toward local beachgoers who looked back at him while calmly sipping green coconut water and staring from behind dark sunglasses.
"I`m here because I have the force of God in me and want to make disciples of all. Arghhhhhhhhhh!" he yelled, lifting his head and howling into Rio`s hot, humid air before flexing his arms and striking a bodybuilder`s pose.