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Pope Francis blesses Olympic flag

Pontiff greets athletes before heading to slum

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    A woman cheers as she waits for the arrival of Pope Francis to the St. Francis of Assisi of the Providence of God Hospital, where the Franciscans look after alcohol and drug addicts, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, July 24, 2013. During his stop at the hospital, Francis was expected to stick with the theme of faith and sacrifice that he spoke about earlier Wednesday in his homily during Mass in Aparecida. The pontiff urged Catholics to resist the "ephemeral idols" of money, power and pleasure. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo

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    Pope Francis waves to pilgrims as he stands on a balcony at the Aparecida Basilica after celebrating Mass in Aparecida, Brazil, Wednesday, July 24, 2013. Tens of thousands of faithful flocked to the tiny town of Aparecida, tucked into an agricultural region halfway between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, where he is to celebrate the first public Mass of his trip in a massive basilica dedicated to the nation's patron saint. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis)

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    Pope Francis greets pilgrims from his popemobile as he arrives to the Aparecida Basilica in Aparecida, Brazil, Wednesday, July 24, 2013. Tens of thousands of faithful flocked to the tiny town of Aparecida, tucked into an agricultural region halfway between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, where he is to celebrate the first public Mass of his trip in a massive basilica dedicated to the nation's patron saint. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis)

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    Pope Francis holds up the chalice as he gives Mass inside Aparecida Basilica in Aparecida, Brazil, Wednesday, July 24, 2013. Francis celebrated the first public Mass of his trip to Brazil after praying before the statue of Our Lady of Aparecida, Brazil's patron saint. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

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    A woman prays as she holds two crucifixes while waiting for the arrival of Pope Francis to the the Aparecida Basilica in Aparecida, Brazil, Wednesday, July 24, 2013. Tens of thousands of faithful flocked to the tiny town of Aparecida, tucked into an agricultural region halfway between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, where he is to celebrate the first public Mass of his trip in a massive basilica dedicated to the nation's patron saint. (AP Photo/Luca Zennaro, Pool)

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    Residents wait for Pope Francis' arrival at a soccer field in the Varginha slum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, July 25, 2013. Pope Francis will bless the Olympic flag, visit this slum and address upward of 1 million young Roman Catholics in Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana beach on Thursday, as Latin America's first pope continued his inaugural international trip as pontiff. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)

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    Pope Francis holds up the statue of the Virgin of Aparecida, Brazil's patron saint, during Mass in the Aparecida Basilica in Aparecida, Brazil, Wednesday.

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APTOPIX-Brazil-Pope-1

Pope Francis holds up the statue of the Virgin of Aparecida, Brazil's patron saint, during Mass in the Aparecida Basilica in Aparecida, Brazil, Wednesday.

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RIO DE JANEIRO — Pope Francis has blessed the Olympic flag, joining a long list of popes who have shown an interest in the positive role sport can play in society.

Francis greeted some of Brazil’s Olympic athletes during a brief visit to Rio’s City Palace today. From the balcony, he blessed the Olympic flag with holy water and imparted a blessing on those gathered. Rio de Janeiro is hosting the 2016 Summer Games.

Later today, Francis heads to one of Rio’s favela slums in a highlight of his weeklong trip to Brazil.

On the eve of the London Olympics, then-Pope Benedict XVI issued a message saying he hoped the 2012 Games would help promote peace and friendship. Pope John XXIII greeted Olympians in Rome for the 1960 Games.

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