ROME (AP) - It's wheels up on Pope Francis' first trip abroad as pontiff.
A special Alitalia flight carrying Francis, his entourage and journalists who will cover him on his weeklong visit to Brazil took off 10 minutes behind schedule Monday from Rome's Leonardo da Vinci airport.
Keeping to his example that the Catholic church must be humble, Francis carried his own black hand luggage. He even kept holding it with his left hand while he used his right to shake hands with some of the VIPs who turned out to wish him well and while he climbed the stairs to the jet's entrance. Among the dignitaries was Italian Premier Enrico Letta.
The flight goes straight to Rio de Janeiro.
Pope Francis is landing Monday in a Brazil electric with anticipation for the pontiff's first international trip.
He's heading into the open arms of his home continent, and mammoth crowds are expected to celebrate Mass on Rio's Copacabana beach.
The pope is coming to meet with legions of young Roman Catholics converging on Rio for the church's World Youth Day festival.
More than 1 million people are expected to pack the white sands of Copacabana to celebrate Mass with Francis. He also will visit a tiny chapel in a trash-strewn slum, and grassroots Catholics love that he plans a side trip to venerate Brazil's patron saint.
But the pope also is coming to a region where millions have left the Catholic Church for rival Pentecostal evangelical churches or secularism.