RIO DE JANIERO, Brazil — Pope Francis' trip to his home continent ended Sunday after drawing millions of people onto the sands of Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana beach and appearing to reinvigorate the clergy and faithful alike in the world's largest Catholic country.
Dignitaries including Brazilian Vice President Michel Temer turned out at Rio's Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport to bid farewell to the Argentine-born pontiff after a weeklong visit.
Big moments included a visit to a vast church dedicated to Brazil's patron saint, a rainy walk through one of Rio's dangerous slums and a papal Mass on Sunday that was one of the biggest in recent history.
Speaking from a white stage on the sands of Copacabana on Sunday, Francis urged a crowd estimated at 3 million people 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 in his final homily of World Youth Day festivities.
Later Sunday, he issued a more pointed message to the region's bishops, telling them to better look out for their flocks and put an end to the "clerical" culture that places priests on pedestals.
Francis' visit was widely hailed as a success by the Vatican, pilgrims and everyday Brazilians. His nonstop agenda was followed live on television for all seven days, his good nature and modesty charming a country that has seen the phenomenal rise of Protestant and evangelical Pentecostal churches in recent decades.
On the tarmac of Rio's airport minutes before the pope's takeoff, Temer said, "You came to see the young people but you ended up enchanting all Brazilians."