Pope Francis left Rome today, embarking on the first Apostolic Visit of his papacy to Brazil, site of the 28th World Youth Day on Rio de Janeiro.
Accompanying the Holy Father on his flight was Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and president of Pontifical Commission for Latin America, and Cardinal João Bráz de Aviz, prefect for the Pontifical Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
The Holy Father was greeted on the tarmac of Rome’s Fiumicino Airport by Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta. The Alitalia flight bearing the Pope departed shortly after 8:45am and will arrive at “Galeao/Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport in Rio de Janeiro at 4:00pm, local time.
Pope Francis posted a message on his Twitter account, @pontifex, expressing his joy at the upcoming youth event. “I am arriving in Brazil in a few hours and my heart is already full of joy because soon I will be with you to celebrate the 28th WYD,” the Pope tweeted.
Prior to departing for Brazil, the Holy Father sent a message to Giorgio Napolitano, President of the Italian Republic.
“At the moment in which I set about to leave for Brazil, on the occasion of the World Youth Day, to meet with young people from all over the world and to encourage them to be witnesses of hope and architects of peace, I am pleased to address to you, Mr. President, and to all Italians my cordial greetings which I accompany with the most fervent wishes for serenity and confidence in the future,” the Pope’s message stated.
Upon his arrival in Brazil, the Holy Father will be greeted by President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil and ecclesiastical authorities. He will then be taken to the Presidential Palace in Guanabara where a welcoming ceremony will take place and after the Holy Father will have a private meeting with the President of Brazil and the mayor of Rio de Janeiro.