By Francis X. Rocca
RIO DE JANEIRO (CNS) — Pope Francis arrived in Brazil July 22, making the first international trip of his pontificate to his native region of Latin America.
The papal flight touched down at Rio’s Galateo-Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport at 3:43 p.m. local time.
Following an arrival ceremony at the airport with Brazil President Dilma Rousseff, Pope Francis was scheduled to ride to the city’s downtown, where he would board an open-topped popemobile and make a circuit of streets around Rio’s cathedral and historic Municipal Theater.
Pope Francis’ almost last-minute decision to circulate through downtown is a characteristic bit of improvisation, exemplifying the spontaneity that has already become a trademark quality of his young pontificate.
According to his original itinerary, the pope would have proceeded directly from the airport to a welcome ceremony in the Guanabara Palace, the office of the governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro, about 12 miles away.
Archbishop Orani Tempesta of Rio said that the pope had added the downtown ride to his itinerary in order to be “close to the people.”
The government has provided heightened security for the papal visit, with more than 28,000 police officers assigned to the week of events, which culminate in the celebrations of World Youth Day.
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