Pope Francis arrives to Brazil's warm embrace

Posted Monday, July 22, 2013 --- 2:11 p.m.

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) -- Pope Francis has returned to the warm embrace of Latin America, landing in Brazil to begin his first international trip as pontiff.

Carrying his own hand luggage, Francis flew from Rome to Rio on a no-frills commercial airliner that was specially booked for him.

It's the first time the Argentine-born Francis has returned to his home continent since his selection as pope in March.

Waiting for him are 350,000 young Roman Catholics from 175 nations who are already in Rio for World Youth Day.

Francis arrives at a tough time for the church in Latin America, where it's losing faithful to rival churches and secularism.

A new poll says just 57 percent of Brazilians aged 16 and older call themselves Catholics, the lowest recorded level.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press