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Pope presides over solemn ceremony in Brazil

RIO DE JANEIRO -- Pope Francis presided over one of the most solemn rites of the Catholic Church Friday, a procession re-enacting Christ's crucifixion in the improbable location of Rio's hedonistic Copacabana beach, as he headed into the home stretch of his first international trip for World Youth Day.

The evening procession highlighted Francis' spiritual side a day after he showed off his rebel streak by calling on young Catholics to shake things up in their parishes.

Francis took a long drive in his open car along Rio's oceanfront to reach the stage, kissing babies brought to him and waving to the shrieking crowds held behind fences and soldiers in camouflage. He then watched on in prayer as young people began the procession, which recounts the final hours of Christ's life.

The procession is one of the mainstay events of World Youth Day, designed to remind young Catholics that Christ died to forgive their sins. Francis drove home that message yesterday, hearing confessions of five young pilgrims in a Rio park.

"It was all very personal," said Estefani Lescano, 21, a student from Venezuela. "He told us that young people have the responsibility of keeping the church alive and spreading the word of Christ." -- AP

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