A wave of protests and excitement marked the first day of Pope Francis' first official overseas trip in Brazil's Rio de Janeiro.

The Pontiff's visit fuelled people's passion in the world's largest Catholic country but also reignited the wave of turmoil that gripped Brazil last month.

Police fired teargas and rubber bullets to disperse some 1,500 demonstrators protesting against the government outside the state governor's palace, where Francis met Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

About an hour earlier, Francis' motorcade had been blocked by an ecstatic crowd, as jubilant devotees clamoured for a glimpse of the first Latin American Pope in history.


Demonstrators maintained their anger was not directed at the Pope but at the Government's decision to spend £40m to organise the visit.

More than one million Brazilians took to the streets in June, to protest against corruption as well as poor social and public services, after massive public spending for the hosting of the 2014 football World Cup and 2016 Olympics.

"We've got nothing against the Pope. Nobody here is against him," said Christopher Creindel, a 22-year-old protester and art student. "This protest is against our politicians."

Rio de Janeiro police said a peaceful demonstration was hijacked by "backblocks", some of which threw stones and Molotov bombs at security forces.

Eight people, including an AFP photographer, were reportedly injured and seven others arrested.

In a separate incident a homemade explosive device was found by Brazilian authorities in a public toilet near the basilica at Aparecida, a Marian shrine that Francis is to visit later this week.

"There are no concerns for security. The concerns are that the enthusiasm is so great that it's difficult to respond to so much enthusiasm for the Pope. But there is no fear and no concern," commented the Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi.


Francis did not seem concerned about the ecstatic crowds either. The Pope smiled broadly as thousands of people mobbed his car after his driver had taken a wrong turn on their way from the airport to the city centre.

As the vehicle came to a standstill, Francis kept his back-seat window opened to greet pilgrims attending the Roman Catholic World Youth Day (WYD) festival in Rio.

He also kissed a baby handed to him by a woman as security officials struggled to keep the crowds at bay.

"His secretary was afraid, but the pope was happy," said Rev. Lombardi.

Francis later toured Rio's main streets in an open jeep, as he refused to use his bullet-proof Popemobile.

More than one million pilgrims are expected to arrive in Rio de Janeiro to attend the festival and witness the Argentina-born pope celebrate mass on the famous Copacabana beach.

Francis had tweeted upon arrival: