Soldiers to protect pope, pilgrims in Rio streets

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazilian authorities say 7,000 soldiers will join thousands of police on Rio de Janeiro’s streets to help protect Pope Francis and upward of 1 million people hoping to see the pontiff.

It was always planned that soldiers would provide protection during a Saturday night prayer vigil and a Sunday Mass that was to be held in a field west of Rio.

But heavy rains turned that field into mud, forcing organizers to move all weekend activities to Rio.

Soldiers will protect participants in a World Youth Day pilgrimage along a 6-mile (9.5-kilometer) walk through Rio’s streets.

Uniformed soldiers will also be on the sands of Copacabana beach in front of the stage where the pope will celebrate Mass.

However, soldiers on the beach will not carry weapons.

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