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Pope visits favela, Copacabana beach

Pope Francis has continued his visit to Brazil by reaching out to thousands of the poor who live in the slums of Rio de Janeiro. Later he presided over a mass at the city’s Copacabana beach.

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Francis, who is making his first major international trip since being elected as pope back in March, received a warm welcome when he turned up in the Varginha slum or "favela" on Thursday.

At one point, the 76-year-old Argentine addressed a crowd of thousands who gathered in the rain on a muddy soccer field to hear his call for more social justice.

"No amount of peace-building will be able to last, nor will harmony and happiness be attained in a society that ignores, pushes to the margins or excludes a part of itself," the pope said.

"To you and all, I repeat: Never yield to discouragement, do not lose trust, do not allow your hope to be extinguished. Situations can change, people can change."

Later, the pontiff travelled by helicopter to Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana beach, where he was welcomed by more than a million Catholics from around the world as he opened the church’s World Youth Day.

"I always heard that the Cariocas (residents of Rio de Janeiro) didn't like cold and rain. Your faith is stronger than cold and rain," Francis told the crowd.

This is the 28th edition of World Youth Day, which was last held in Madrid in 2011. This year’s event is to wrap up on Sunday with a mass celebrated by Pope Francis.

pfd/kms (dpa, AP, AFP)