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AP PHOTOS: 3 million jam Rio beach for pope’s Mass

July 28, 2013

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — An estimated 3 million people gathered on the white sands and mosaic sidewalks of Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana beach for a monumental-scale Mass celebrated by Pope Francis.

Hundreds of thousands of people camped out on the 4 kilometer- (2.5 mile-) long beach overnight ahead of Sunday morning’s Mass, the last big public event of the Argentine-born pope’s weeklong trip to his home continent.

Pilgrims swarmed metal crowd control barriers to cheer, applaud and wave at the pope, and many of them lobbed T-shirts, flags and soccer jerseys into the his open-sided car as it rolled by. As he has throughout this trip, Francis went with the flow, pausing to kiss babies, bless the faithful and catch the gifts on the fly.

While many in the vast crowd listened raptly to the pope’s homily urging young Catholics to go out and spread their faith “to the fringes of society,” others made up for lost sleep by napping during the Mass. Many took advantage of the sun to take a revitalizing morning dip in the Atlantic.

With litter everywhere, the beachfront looked — and smelled — worse for the wear, and trash collectors were out in force to help restore order.

Once the Mass was done, tides of pilgrims hailing from across the globe surged out of Copacabana, snarling traffic across the city of 6 million people.

Francis was headed back to Rome later Sunday, and pilgrims also began to stream out of Rio at the end World Youth Day, a periodic gathering of Catholic youth.

Here’s a gallery of images from the seventh and final day of the pope’s visit to Brazil.

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