Pope blesses Olympic flag, greets athletes

NICOLE WINFIELD and JENNY BARCHFIELD
Associated Press
Pope blesses Olympic flag, greets athletes

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) —

Pope Francis has blessed the Olympic flag, joining a long list of popes who have shown an interest in the positive role sport can play in society.

Francis greeted some of Brazil's Olympic athletes during a brief visit to Rio's City Palace on Thursday. From the balcony, he blessed the Olympic flag with holy water and imparted a blessing on those gathered. Rio de Janeiro is hosting the 2016 Summer Games.

Later Thursday, Francis heads to one of Rio's favela slums in a highlight of his weeklong trip to Brazil.

On the eve of the London Olympics, then-Pope Benedict XVI issued a message saying he hoped the 2012 Games would help promote peace and friendship. Pope John XXIII greeted Olympians in Rome for the 1960 Games.