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.