RIO DE JANEIRO, March 24 (UPI) -- Pope Francis announced during his Palm Sunday homily at St. Peter's Square he plans to visit Brazil in July for a Catholic youth celebration.
The Catholic Church's first Latin American leader spoke of his first scheduled trip to that continent, saying "I look forward joyfully to next July in Rio de Janeiro."
The festival is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of young Catholics from around the world. The pope will say mass on Copacabana beach and pray at the Christ the Redeemer statue, the BBC reported.
"Prepare well -- prepare spiritually above all -- in your communities, so that our gathering in Rio may be a sign of faith for the whole world," Francis said during Sunday's homily. "Young people need to tell the world: 'It is good to follow Jesus, it is good to go with Jesus, the message of Jesus is good, it is good to come out of ourselves, from the edges of existence of the world and to bring Jesus to others!'"
Sunday launched the start of Holy Week, the most important week on the Christian calendar. Already Pope Francis has eschewed the traditions of his predecessors by planning to visit a prison for young offenders Thursday in a Roman suburb where he will wash the feet of 12 young prisoners, the BBC reported.
Previous popes performed the task in the Roman cathedral of St. John Lateran, washing the feet of priests symbolizing the 12 apostles.