Pope Francis Visit Not Welcomed By All Brazilians; Some Question Security Costs

The massive support Brazilians have for Pope Francis was clearly visible as soon as he stepped off the plane on Monday.

Throngs of people lined up streets to get a glimpse of the new leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.

Yet not everyone was happy-go-lucky over the pontiff's visit -- particularly not when considering millions that were spent on preparations and security measures for his visit.

While Pope Francis met with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and several other government officials Monday, around 1,500 protesters gathered outside. They thought the $53 million price tag associated with the pope's visit was ridiculous and the money could have been put to much better use to serve poor and low-income people.

Originally, the protesters had gathered to peacefully. Then someone allegedly threw a Molotov cocktail at the police who were securing the area and a riot broke out.

The Pope didn't seem to be the direct target of protesters' frustration, which for weeks has focused on governmental policies and tax increases on public services. According to the French television channel France 24, participants sported a banner that read: “Down with the fascist state and its anti-people governments.”

The struggle that ensued left at least eight people injured, according to Brazilian leading newspaper, O Globo. Of the seven people who were arrested, two are members of the citizen journalist movement “Mídia Ninja,” and one was in possession of 20 Molotov cocktails, police told O Globo.

The protest wasn’t the only potentially dangerous event surrounding the Pope on his first day in Brazil. Since he wanted his security detail to be as demilitarized as possible so as to better connect with the Catholic people, he rode through the Brazilian streets in a Fiat car, easily accessible by throngs of people that flooded the area to catch a glimpse of the South American pontiff.

“His secretary was afraid but the Pope wasn’t,” Father Federico Lombardi told The Telegraph. “He enjoyed meeting everybody and greeting people. We were not at all worried about security. We were struck by the amount of enthusiasm.”

In order to avoid the protests raging outside the Guanabara Palace, Pope Francis left the building in a helicopter.

“We have full confidence in the authorities,” Lombardi added, according to The Telegraph. “Today was the first experience, a learning experience, and we will see what happens in the next few days.”

Pope Francis arrived in Brazil Monday afternoon on his first international trip since his papal selection in March. He is staying at the Archbishop of Rio’s official residence Sumaré, and will be in Brazil until Sunday as he celebrates World Youth Day with an expected 1.5 million other Catholics.

“I have learned that, to gain access to the Brazilian people, it is necessary to pass through its great heart, so let me knock gently at this door,” the Pope said, according to France 24.

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