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Domenico Stinellis, Associated Press
Pope Francis gives his blessing at the end of the Angelus noon prayer at Sao Joaquim Palace, the residence of Rio's archbishop, in Rio de Janeiro, Friday, July 26, 2013. Pope Francis is on the fifth day of his trip to Brazil where he will attend the 2013 World Youth Day in Rio.

World Youth Day, a Catholic festival that runs from July 23-28, kicked off Tuesday night in Brazil with a giant evening mass on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro.

The Catholic News Service reported Wednesday, “Rio Archbishop Orani Joao Tempesta officially opened World Youth Day with the evening Mass. … Police said more than 400,000 pilgrims braved the rain to gather on the beach. Some reacted with joy and tears when young people made their way up on the main stage carrying the Pilgrim's Cross.”

“The highlight of the festival will be a visit on Thursday by Pope Francis,” the BBC suggested Wednesday. “The Pope arrived in Brazil on Monday, making his first trip abroad since becoming head of the Roman Catholic Church. His visit is taking place under tight security, after weeks of protests against the government and corruption.”

When the pope does address World Youth Day, one of his biggest challenges could be persuading young men to become priests. On Wednesday the Associated Press reported, “Pope Francis’ success in drawing (youths) toward the priesthood could be crucial to an institution that is starving for clergy to serve its growing congregations. … Nearly 25 percent of the world’s parishes don’t have a resident priest, according to Vatican statistics. And while the number of Catholics in the world grew by 68 percent between 1975 and 2010 the number of priests grew by just 1.8 percent, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.”

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