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UN: Catholic pilgrims seek asylum in Brazil

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August 22, 2013 03:49 PM EST | AP

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RIO DE JANEIRO — About 40 Catholic pilgrims who traveled to Brazil for Pope Francis' recent visit never left, hoping to stay permanently with political asylum.

The U.N. High Commission for Refugees in Brasilia said Thursday that the asylum seekers who came to Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day say they suffer from persecution in home countries including Pakistan, Congo and Sierra Leone.

At least a dozen pilgrims say they are persecuted as Christians. The rest say they face political persecution or are fleeing conflicts.

If was unclear how long Brazil's Justice Ministry will take to weigh the asylum applications. The U.N. agency says it will help the applicants.

In the meantime, the pilgrims are being cared for by the church and the families who sheltered them during World Youth Day.