RIO DE JANEIRO – Even though Pope Francis’ motorcade ended up stalled on a traffic-choked street and swarmed by thousands of faithful, Brazilian officials said Tuesday they evaluated security for the pontiff’s arrival in Rio as positive.
The frenzied crowd surrounded the motorcade Monday afternoon as people reached inside to touch Francis, snap photos with their phones or hand him babies to kiss – scenes that alarmed some onlookers, although the pope himself seemed overjoyed with the raucous welcome and kept his car window down.
Francis later moved through the masses in an open-air vehicle.
Early Tuesday, Brazilian security forces blamed each other for the lapse, and no one took responsibility for the traffic fiasco, which began when the driver of the pope’s car made a wrong turn.
Later though, federal police, who are in charge of most of Francis’ security, took an upbeat tone.
The agency said a meeting was held with officials from a federal agency overseeing mega-events that Brazil is hosting over the next few years; the highway police who played a role in the motorcade’s planning; and the Rio mayor’s office to evaluate the security provided.
The evaluation was positive, since there was no incident involving the pope or with any of the faithful, an emailed note read.
It added that the swarming and halting of the motorcade occurred for a number of reasons, in particular the options of the Vatican itself, concerning the visibility and contact with the pilgrims, expressed by the pope himself. The reduced speed of the motorcade and the vehicle’s open window are facts revealing the profile of this pontiff and the encouragement given to the faithful to approach.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is in Brazil and said that in watching the motorcade scene, I was one of those alarmed myself. He said he was concerned about the pontiff’s security.
Experts said that allowing the pope’s car to be swarmed was a grave mistake, but they agreed that the desires of Francis to be out among the public made it difficult to ensure his security.