Karam said that Francis had shown particular sensitivity to racial minorities and the poor, remembering his recent Mass on the Italian island of Lampedusa for African migrants who died trying to make it to Europe. “This is something that the pope will understand, since he is so sensitive to the necessity of rescuing the poorest,” she said, adding that Francis will understand the “racist” implications of the drug war.
Others criticized the organization of the weeklong events, which included an accidental metro outage, a heavy-handed police response to demonstrators who protested in front of the governor’s palace on the first day of the papal visit, and a change of location for the final Mass from working-class Guaratiba on the edges of Rio to the Copacabana beach. The change was motivated by the week’s heavy rains that had made Guaratiba hazardous for crowds.
Thousands of pilgrims slept on cardboard and in makeshift tents along the beach and in front of gated beachside condominiums in Copacabana on Saturday night to participate in a night-time vigil before the morning Mass.
“We are not very content because it was disorganized,” Mónica Barahoua, 28, from Colombia, said as she awoke surrounded by food crumbs and other pilgrims covering their noses due to the smell of nearby toilets. She said the residences that she and her fellow travelers were assigned to were close to Guaratiba but well over an hour from Copacabana, making transportation difficult.
But Claudia Brandao, 30, a mother who traveled with her nine-month-old daughter from Angola, had only praise for the event.
“People welcomed me that had never seen me or met me before,” said an emotional Brandao after the Sunday Mass.
She added that Francis’ style has already had an impact on fellow believers. “I see people happier and more charismatic,” she said.