Pope blesses Olympic flag, greets athletes

Associated Press
Pope Francis waves to pilgrims from his popemobile as he arrives to the Aparecida Basilica in Aparecida, Brazil, Wednesday, July 24, 2013. It was no coincidence that the first major event of his first foreign trip as pope was a Mass in Aparecida. The shrine, which draws 11 million pilgrims a year, hosted a critical 2007 meeting of Latin American bishops attended by then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio. (AP Photo/Enric Marti)
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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) —

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 on Thursday. 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 Thursday, 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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