About half a million pilgrims descended on Copacabana beach marking the start of World Youth Day in the pouring rain ready to answer the Pope's call to become missionaries.
The rain did nothing to deter the young people as they prepared for the Opening Mass. It was a very different scene to what I am used to in England, or even to what I witnessed at the last WYD.
The streets were filled with young Catholics. There was not even an inch to move. Those crammed into the small place could feel the Brazilian's infamous carnival atmosphere infecting everyone around them. Blind to the rain they prepared to listen to the Archbishop of Rio.
As darkness fell over the beach the scene was more familiar to a festival goer than a faithful Catholic attending Mass. World Youth Day is often dubbed the Glastonbury or Woodstock of the Catholic world and standing with the other pilgrims it was easy to see why.
The music blared, the lights flashed as the Mass was said on a stage set between huge speakers. A 'nightclub blue' light illuminated the priests and bishops gathered to celebrate Mass. Here was a scene that spoke to the Brazilians. Here was a scene that spoke to the young people.
If the youth festivals and events so far have been marked with the enthusiasm and excitement that we often lack in the Western Church, the Mass was another example of how Catholics can show their faith and joy in a different way. Whether it is better or not is immaterial. Everyone has varying taste, but there was no denying the blend of modern rock guitars against the more contemplative Mass music had the pilgrims hooked. It lead them in prayer, switching them from exuberant praise to quiet reflection.
Back home in England, many young people lament the lack of this union of quiet moments complimented by the uplifting powerful embracing of more modern music. Even the World Youth Day song, Hope of the Dawn, is sung by UK band Ooberfuse, an electro-pop group that have successfully melded relgious messages with catchy melodies. Perhaps this is something we can learn from.
Amongst all this passionate praise the Homily gave us a moment to stop and think. Archbishop Orani Joao Tempesta echoed the Pope's words from his arrival, and the motto to World Youth Day. Go and make disciples of all nations.
He asked the young people gathered to use World Youth Day as the launch pad for this evangelisation, to consider how they can bring back home the spirit and faith they experience here.
Archbishop Tempesta said Rio was the 'centre of the Church, alive and young,' bringing the pilgrims to tears. He told the pilgrims to form a new generation. A tough and challenging task in my home country where Catholicism is not the native faith. But then that is the point of World Youth Day to speak to the young people, refresh them and their faith so they can return passionate and ready to share their experience.
A renewal is exactly what we need. I have already spoken to many fellow English pilgrims worried about their freedom of religion. The same-sex marriage bill has just been passed, the young people are facing questions at school, university and even in the street. It has never been harder to defend the faith. Pope Francis helps these young people to face these challenges, every time he speaks he gives them courage to return home and fight these battles.
Even caught up in the hype and excitement I was able to pause and reflect on something Archbishop Tempesta said that struck me. "Another world is possible," he said. It is something the young people pray for but never believe to be a true possibility. Standing in the rain on Copacabana beach as World Youth Day was officially opened for the first time in our lives we all believed it to be true.