VATICAN CITY (AFP) - Pope Francis announced on Palm Sunday that he would make an appearance at this year’s global Catholic youth festival in Rio de Janeiro. Before he decided to step down, Francis’ predecessor Benedict XVI had also planned to attend World Youth Day (WYD), an event organised by the Catholic Church that brings together young people from all over the world. “Dear friends, I too am starting off with you, in the footsteps of the blessed John Paul II and Benedict XVI,” Francis said in his Palm Sunday address, in comments directed at the young people present on Saint Peter’s Square. “I look forward to July in Rio de Janeiro with happiness. I will see you in this big Brazilian city,” he added.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff had indicated Wednesday that Pope Francis would attend WYD, but the Vatican had not confirmed the trip.

Pope Francis kicked off his Palm Sunday ceremony in front of thousands of faithful by touring Saint Peter’s Square in an open jeep.

For Christians, Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week, and commemorates Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, welcomed by crowds waving palm branches, before his arrest, trial, crucifixion and resurrection.

It is traditionally marked by a procession and special mass.

During his homily, Pope Francis also spoke out against evil in the world.

“Let us look around us at how many wounds evil inflicts on humankind. Wars, violence, economic conflicts that hit the weakest, a lust for money, for power, corruption, divisions, crimes against human life and against creation,” he said.