Pope Francis on Wednesday placed his life, his pontificate and the Latin American people under the protection of the Virgin of Aparecida, the patron saint of Brazil, and urged young people to be the architects of a more just world.

Two days after arriving in Rio de Janeiro to preside at the 28th World Youth Day event, Francis traveled Wednesday to the town of Aparecida, where he was welcomed by 200,000 people who braved the rainy, chilly conditions currently prevailing in that part of Brazil.

Francis was welcomed with hymns, cheers and applause by the faithful, some of whom had waited for more than two days to see the first Latin American pope, who did not hesitate to leave the Popemobile to extend his hands to the faithful and kiss a number of little children.

Once inside the church, Francis went to the Chapel of the 12 Apostles, where the image of the Virgin Mary known as "Our Lady of Conception (who) Appeared" - is on display and before which he prayed for several minutes.

"Into your hands I place my life," said the clearly moved pope, who later officiated at his first public Mass in Brazil, where he exhorted the faithful not to lose hope and asked parents and educators to transmit to young people the values that will make them the architects of a more just world.

To achieve that objective, the pope said that three things are necessary: one must maintain hope, stop being surprised by God and live life with happiness.

He said that nowadays young people feel the persuasions of so many idols "that insert themselves in the place of God and seem to give hope, like money, success, power, pleasure," adding that this is due to the sensations of loneliness and emptiness from which young people suffer "and which lead to the search for the compensations of these fleeting idols."

Francis announced that in 2017 he will return to Aparecida on the 300th anniversary of the Virgin Mary's claimed appearance there.

The pope will return Wednesday afternoon to Rio and will visit a hospital dedicated to the recovery of young drug addicts and alcoholics. EFE