We need a bigger beach! THREE MILLION people pack Rio's Copacabana beach for final Mass of Pope Francis's tour of Brazil
- Pilgrims cheer the Pope's call for them to get out in the streets to build up the Catholic church
- 'Jesus offers us something bigger than the World Cup!' he says, drawing applause from football-mad Brazilians
- Many had spent all night on Copacabana beach in a vigil for World Youth Day
- Presidents of Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and Suriname were all present for the Mass
Pope Francis has completed a historic trip to his home continent by celebrating mass to three million people on Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana beach.
The colossal crowds cheered the first Latin American pope in a remarkable response to his message that the Catholic Church must shake itself up and get out into the streets to find the faithful.
Nuns mixed with bikini-clad young women as nearly the entire 2.5-mile crescent of Copacabana’s broad beach in Rio overflowed with people, some of them taking an early morning dip in the Atlantic and others tossing flags and football shirts into the pontiff’s open-sided car as he drove by.
Preaching to the converted: Pope Francis celebrates his final mass on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, where his message that the Catholic Church must shake itself up and get out into the streets to find the faithful was met with cheers by the faithful
Once in a lifetime: Nuns mixed with bikini-clad young women as nearly the entire 2.5-mile crescent of Copacabana's broad beach in Rio overflowed with people
Colossal crowds: Catholic pilgrims, many of them dressed in Brazil's national colours, watch as the Pope gives Mass
Worshippers clutched rosary beads and prayer cards as they jostled for space on Copacabana Beach to hear the pontiff speak
Francis worked the crowd, kissing babies, taking a sip of mate tea handed up to him and catching gifts on the fly.
Even the normally stern-faced Vatican bodyguards let smiles slip as they jogged alongside his car, caught up in the enthusiasm of the crowd.
Many of the crowd had spent the night on the beach, an all-night slumber party to end World Youth Day that had a festive Latin air, with pilgrims wrapped in flags and sleeping bags to ward off the cold.
- Sunbathers join nuns on Rio's Copacabana beach as one million Catholics gather for evening service with the Pope
- The Holy ghost! Breeze gets the better of the Pope as he address thousands of pilgrims on Copacabana beach and laments security that stops him getting close to his followers
- Even the rain won't keep them away: Tens of thousands brave dismal weather to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis
They danced, prayed and sang - and stood in long lines in front of the armadas of portable bathrooms along the beachfront.
'We were dying of cold but it was worth it,' said Lucrecia Grillera, an 18-year-old from Cordoba, Argentina, where Francis lived for a time before becoming pope.
'It was a tiring day, but it was a great experience.'
Pope Francis blesses a child held aloft as he rides on the popemobile through the millions of people who had travelled from across Latin America to see him
Security guards run to keep up with Pope Francis as he arrives for his final mass on Copacabana beach: He worked the crowd, kissing babies, taking a sip of mate tea handed up to him and catching gifts on the fly
Francis smiles as he blesses the son of a policeman clutching a Brazilian flag: Many of the crowd had spent the night on the beach, an all-night slumber party to end World Youth Day that had a festive Latin air
For posterity: Millions of pilgrims point the cameras at the religious leader to capture moment his motorcade swept past
By morning, the beach and adjoining Atlantic Avenue looked like an improvised refugee camp plunked down in the middle of one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Copacabana's famous mosaic sidewalks were strewn with trampled cardboard, plastic bags, empty water bottles and cookie wrappers and the stench of garbage and human waste hung in the humid air.
Vendors hawking World Youth Day trinkets, t-shirts, hats and flags did brisk business as pilgrims snapped up souvenirs before heading home.
Jehovah's Witnesses stood by stands stocked with pamphlets on 'What does the Bible really teach,' but they had few takers.
Flanked by members of the clergy, Pope Francis waved to the masses as the World Youth Day celebrations came to an end
21st Century pilgrims: As they awaited Pope Francis's arrival, pilgrims danced, prayed and sang - and stood in long lines in front of the armadas of portable bathrooms along the beachfront
Warmly dressed: A pilgrim wakes up after a night of vigil on Copacabana beach. The Vatican said more than three million people were on hand for the Mass, based on information from World Youth Day organisers and local authorities
Crowds pack the beach as the pope's motorcade makes its way: Many of those at the vigil had tears in their eyes as they listened to Francis¿ call for them to not be 'part-time Christians' and to build up their church like his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, was called to do
A special day: Priests wait for the arrival of Pope Francis for the final mass of his visit. The Pope was set to return to Rome tonight after a week-long trip
The Vatican said more than three million people were on hand for the Mass, based on information from World Youth Day organisers and local authorities.
Not all of them were paying attention to the Mass: children posed for random photos with people holding flags, snoozed and packed up their makeshift camps.
Finding food was a core concern, with long lines of bedraggled pilgrims snaking out of cafes and ice cream vendors mobbed by youths starved for breakfast.
The presidents of Brazil, Francis' native Argentina, Bolivia and Suriname were on hand for the Mass, as were the vice presidents of Uruguay and Panama.
Nuns joined the beachfront vigil led by Pope Francis for the 28th World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, with many of the three million-strong crowd staying put for mass
Pilgrims unfold a huge image of Pope Francis: Vendors hawking World Youth Day trinkets, t-shirts, hats and flags did brisk business as pilgrims snapped up souvenirs before heading home
A faithful continent: Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff, left, Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez, centre, and Bolivia's President Evo Morales, attend the Mass on Copacabana beach
Many spent the night on the beach, an all-night slumber party to end the Catholic youth festival, with pilgrims wrapped in flags and sleeping bags to ward off the cold
Pope Francis blesses a family of four, the parents dressed in Brazil football shirts, during the final Mass: One pilgrim who was on Copacabana beach to experience the spiritual event called it 'marvellous'
Even the animals came... A stray dog walks down the stairs of the altar as Pope Francis (not seen) celebrates his final mass on Copacabana Beach
Many of those at the vigil had tears in their eyes as they listened to Francis’ call for them to not be 'part-time Christians' and to build up their church like his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, was called to do.
'Jesus offers us something bigger than the World Cup!' Francis said, drawing cheers from the crowd in this football-mad nation.
He urged young Catholics to go out and spread their faith 'to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most indifferent.'
'The church needs you, your enthusiasm, your creativity and the joy that is so characteristic of you!' he said to applause.
The Pope was set to return to Rome tonight after a week-long trip, once he had met the bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean and held a thank-you audience with some of the 60,000 volunteers who organised the youth festival.
'It was such an excellent week, everybody was in such good spirit, you could just feel a sense of peace,' said Denise da Silva, a Rio de Janeiro Catholic who was sitting alone on the beach Sunday morning, a Brazilian flag painted on her face.
Incredible sight: A man reaches out of the window of a glass-fronted hotel to take a photo of the millions of Catholics gathered to see Pope Francis's final mass of trip to Brazil
A series of giant screens allowed the throng, many of whom had camped overnight, to see the distant Pope Francis up close
A bishop whipped out his camera to take a picture of the astounding scenes at Copacabana beach ahead of Sunday afternoon mass
A flag celebrating Krakow flew above the crowds following Francis's announcement that the next World Youth Day would be held in the Polish city
Popeacabana: The millions of worshippers turned out to welcome the first Latin American pontiff home on his first overseas trip as the leader of the Roman Catholic Church
'I have never seen something here in Rio so marvelous as what we have just lived.'
According to census data, the number of Catholics in Brazil dipped from 125million in 2000 to 123million in 2010, with the church’s share of the total population dropping from 74 per cent to 65 per cent.
During the same time period, the number of evangelical Protestants and Pentecostals skyrocketed from 26million to 42million, increasing from 15 per cent to 22 per cent of the population in 2010.
The Rev. Jean-Luc Zadroga, a Benedictine monk who was leading a group of 14 students from a Catholic university in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, said it was clear Francis had connected with the crowd, particularly the locals.
'He's really trying to reach out to Catholics who have fallen away from the church or disappointed with the church and I think it's working,' he said.