Pope: We are losing an entire generation to unemployment
Pope Francis has warned that the world risks losing an entire generation of young people to unemployment, as he arrived in Brazil for the first overseas trip of his papacy.
The 76-year-old Pontiff said the "culture of rejection" also extended to old people and that there was a danger that the elderly were being thrown on the scrapheap of society despite the experience they could offer.
The Pope, who succeeded Benedict XVI after his shock resignation in March, is spending a week in Brazil for World Youth Day in the wake of mass protests there over economic inequalities.
It is the first official overseas visit of his four-month papacy and the first time since his election that he has returned to South America, the continent of his birth. Despite a row over the costs of the trip, his visit has generated huge excitement in Brazil, which has the world's largest Roman Catholic population.
In keeping with the modest style Francis has stamped on the papacy, he carried his own hand luggage when he boarded the Alitalia flight from Rome's Leonardo da Vinci airport to Rio de Janeiro early yesterday.
Speaking to journalists aboard the plane, the Argentine Pontiff had a serious message about the impact of the current global economic turmoil on the young.
"The global crisis has brought nothing good to young people," he said. "I saw the data on youth unemployed last week. We run the risk of having a generation without work."
On the subject of the elderly, he said: "We are used to this culture of rejection with old people, we do it often, despite the life wisdom they give us. They are left on one side as if they have nothing to offer."
The Pope's remarks about youth unemployment will resonate far beyond South America – jobless rates among the young in Greece and Spain are near 60pc.
Organisers of the event are hoping that his repeated calls for a "poor church" and greater social justice around the world will not reignite the street protests that erupted across Brazil last month against corruption, transport costs and the billions being spent on next year's World Cup and the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
There were expected to be anti-government protests outside Rio's Guanabara Palace, where Francis was due to meet President Dilma Rousseff shortly after his arrival.
While the protests were mostly aimed at government waste and corruption, there has also been criticism of the €40m cost of organising the Pope's visit.
Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from around the world have converged on Rio for World Youth Day, a seven-day celebration of Catholic youth.
Teenagers wearing T-shirts printed with Francis's face wandered up and down Copacabana Beach, where a giant stage will host several of the set-piece events of the week, including an open-air Mass that is expected to attract a million people. (© Daily Telegraph, London)