RIO DE JANEIRO - A small explosive device was found Sunday near a religious shrine in Brazil that Pope Francis is scheduled to visit later this week, Sao Paulo military police announced just few hours after the pope arrived on Monday.
The homemade device was found July 21, during police training in Aparecida, the site of a massive shrine to the Virgin Mary, Brazilian police said. It was constructed out of a small, plastic cylinder and duct tape.
A special tactical group detonated the explosive without causing any injuries, according to the police.
The affected area was not part of the pope’s route, Brazilian police said. Rather, it was being prepared for pilgrims to World Youth Day, a weeklong Catholic event expected to draw hundreds of thousands to Brazil.
Vatican officials say Francis requested the trip to the Marian shrine, said to be the largest in the world, because of his personal devotion to the Virgin Mary. He is scheduled to preach and celebrate Mass at the shrine.
The surprising disclosure about the explosive came just after Francis, making his first international trip since his March election, had delivered brief remarks to Brazilian dignitaries, including President Dilma Rousseff.
As the pope was driven from the airport to downtown Rio, crowds mobbed his small silver car, reaching out to touch the first Latin American pontiff. Later, they lined the streets as the “Popemobile” wound through downtown.
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