Pope Francis returned to the warm embrace of Latin America, landing in Brazil to begin his first international trip as pontiff.
Pope Francis could not praise the Brazilian people enough for their warm welcome during his weeklong visit for World Youth Day.
Francis expressed his gratitude during the traditional Angelus Sunday blessing. He commented that there were many young people in St. Peter's Square, saying: "It looks like Rio di Janeiro."
The pope called Brazilians "good people," ''people with a huge heart" and "a generous people," and added: "I won't forget the warm welcome."
Francisco told the faithful that youth like those who gathered with him in Brazil "are especially sensitive to the void of meaning and values that often surround them. And unfortunately they pay the price."
The Argentine-born pontiff's trip to Brazil, his first abroad since becoming pope in March, drew millions for the youth festival.
The Vatican said that based on information from World Youth Day organizers and local authorities, more than 3 million people were on hand for the Pope’s final Mass of his historic trip last Sunday at Copacabana beach.
That was far higher than the 1 million at the last World Youth Day vigil in Madrid in 2011 or the 650,000 at Toronto's 2002 vigil.
Many of the crowd had spent the night on the beach, an all-night slumber party to end World Youth Day that had a festive Latin air, with pilgrims wrapped in flags and sleeping bags to ward off the cold. They danced, prayed and sang — and stood in long lines in front of the armadas of portable bathrooms along the beachfront.
"We were dying of cold but it was worth it," said Lucrecia Grillera, an 18-year-old from Cordoba, Argentina, where Francis lived for a time before becoming pope. "It was a tiring day, but it was a great experience."
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.