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Pope Francis pledges almost $5 million to help pay World Youth Day debt

Pilgrims pack Copacabana beach for World Youth Day's closing Mass (AP)

Pope Francis has pledged a donation of almost $5 million to help pay part of the debt incurred by the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day, said the Local Organising Committee.

A statement from the committee said the Pope recognised “the great effort made by the Local Organising Committee to hold World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro and demonstrated his intention to financially help pay off part of the investments made” for the event.

An independent audit of the event, conducted by Ernst & Young, confirmed that on August 31, World Youth Day had an accumulated debt of $38.4 million. After renegotiating with suppliers and selling a property, the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro was able to reduce the debt to a little over $18 million.

World Youth Day was Pope Francis’s first international trip after being named Pontiff. The event brought nearly three million pilgrims to Copacabana beach from July 23-28.

An October-December public campaign to obtain donations to pay off the debt collected $336,600.

The Local Organising Committee said World Youth Day was funded entirely by the church and donations. Federal, state and local governments’ participation was limited to guaranteeing the security of pilgrims and public services during the event, it said.