Papal arrival and Welcome Ceremony at Guanabara

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis arrived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Monday, beginning a week-long Apostolic visit to mark the twenty-eighth World Youth Day. After a brief formal greeting at Rio’s Galeão airport, the Holy Father proceeded to Guanabara Palace for the official Welcoming Ceremony, where he was received by the President of Brazil, Dilma Vana Rousseff Linhares, the Governor of Rio State, Sergio Cabral Filho, and the Mayor of the city of Rio de Janeiro, Eduardo Paes.

In her formal remarks, the President expressed joy and gratitude at the Holy Father’s visit. The Holy Father returned those sentiments, and placed his visit in the context of World Youth Day. The Holy Father went on to offer particular encouragement to the young participants, to their families, and to those responsible for forming and empowering the new generation to take up their responsibilities as the future leaders of humanity.

After the exchange of speeches, the Pope and the President retired for a private meeting, during which Francis presented Mrs. Rousseff with a mosaic realized by the Vatican Mosaic Studio according to the centuries-old techniques used to apply the mosaics in St. Peter’s Basilica, and depicting a panoramic view of Rio from just behind and above the great Statue of Christ the Redeemer.

Here below is the full text of Pope Francis’ remarks:

Madam President, Distinguished Authorities, Brethren and Friends!

In his loving providence, God wished that the first international trip of my pontificate should take me back to my beloved Latin America, specifically to Brazil, a country proud of its links to the Apostolic See and of its deep sentiments of faith and friendship that have always kept it united in a special way to the Successor of Peter. I am grateful for this divine benevolence.
I have learned that, to gain access to the Brazilian people, it is necessary to pass through its great heart; so let me knock gently at this door. I ask permission to come in and spend this week with you. I have neither silver nor gold, but I bring with me the most precious thing given to me: Jesus Christ! I have come in his name, to feed the flame of fraternal love that burns in every heart; and I wish my greeting to reach one and all: The peace of Christ be with you!

I cordially greet the President and the distinguished members of her government. I thank her for her warm welcome and for the words by which she expressed the joy of all Brazilians at my presence in their country. I also greet the state governor who is hosting us in the government palace, and the mayor of Rio de Janeiro, as well as the members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the government of Brazil, the other authorities present and all those who worked hard to make my visit here a reality.
I would like to greet affectionately my brother bishops, to whom falls the serious task of guiding God’s flock in this vast country, as well as their beloved local churches. With this visit, I wish to pursue the pastoral mission proper to the Bishop of Rome of confirming my brothers in their faith in Christ, of encouraging them to give an account of the reasons for the hope which comes from him, and of inspiring them to offer everyone the inexhaustible riches of his love.
As you know, the principal reason for my visit to Brazil goes beyond its borders. I have actually come for World Youth Day. I am here to meet young people coming from all over the world, drawn to the open arms of Christ the Redeemer. They want to find a refuge in his embrace, close to his heart, to listen again to his clear and powerful appeal: “Go and make disciples of all nations”.
These young people are from every continent, they speak many languages, they bring with them different cultures, and yet they also find in Christ the answer to their highest aspirations, held in common, and they can satisfy the hunger for a pure truth and an authentic love which binds them together in spite of differences.
Christ offers them space, knowing that there is no force more powerful than the one released from the hearts of young people when they have been conquered by the experience of friendship with him. Christ has confidence in young people and entrusts them with the very future of his mission, “Go and make disciples”. Go beyond the confines of what is humanly possible and create a world of brothers and sisters! And young people have confidence in Christ: they are not afraid to risk for him the only life they have, because they know they will not be disappointed.
As I begin my visit to Brazil, I am well aware that, in addressing young people, I am also speaking to their families, their local and national church communities, the societies they come from, and the men and women upon whom this new generation largely depends.
Here it is common for parents to say, “Our children are the apple of our eyes”. How beautiful is this expression of Brazilian wisdom, which applies to young people an image drawn from our eyes, which are the window through which light enters into us, granting us the miracle of sight! What would become of us if we didn’t look after our eyes? How could we move forward? I hope that, during this week, each one of us will ask ourselves this thought-provoking question.
Young people are the window through which the future enters the world, thus presenting us with great challenges. Our generation will show that it can realize the promise found in each young person when we know how to give them space; how to create the material and spiritual conditions for their full development; how to give them a solid basis on which to build their lives; how to guarantee their safety and their education to be everything they can be; how to pass on to them lasting values that make life worth living; how to give them a transcendent horizon for their thirst for authentic happiness and their creativity for the good; how to give them the legacy of a world worthy of human life; and how to awaken in them their greatest potential as builders of their own destiny, sharing responsibility for the future of everyone.
As I conclude, I ask everyone to show consideration towards each other and, if possible, the sympathy needed to establish friendly dialogue. The arms of the Pope now spread to embrace all of Brazil in its human, cultural and religious complexity and richness. From the Amazon Basin to the pampas, from the dry regions to the Pantanal, from the villages to the great cities, no one is excluded from the Pope’s affection. In two days’ time, God willing, I will remember all of you before Our Lady of Aparecida, invoking her maternal protection on your homes and families. But for now I give all of you my blessing. Thank you for your welcome!

The ‘Olympic Torch’ of World Youth Days


Many journalists and onlookers to World Youth Days have nicknamed the massive international gatherings “the Catholic Olympics.”  And some have referred to the ‘World Youth Day Cross’ as the ‘Olympic Torch’ of the mega Church events.  Let’s consider for a moment the story of the World Youth Day Cross.  It is known as the “Holy Year Cross”, the “Jubilee Cross”, the “WYD Cross”, the “Pilgrim Cross”. Many simply call it the “Youth Cross” as it was given to young people by Pope John Paul II during the Holy Year of Redemption (1983-1984) to carry on pilgrimage around the world.  In handing over the cross to young people, John Paul II said:  “My dear young people, at the conclusion of the Holy Year, I entrust to you the sign of this Jubilee Year: the Cross of Christ! Carry it throughout the world as a symbol of Christ”s love for humanity, and announce to everyone that only in the death and resurrection of Christ can we find salvation and redemption”(April 22,1984).

The first pilgrimage of the Holy Year Cross (as it was first known) was in July 1984 to Munich, Germany for the “Katholikentag” (Catholic days).  From Germany, it went to Prague, at that time still behind the Iron Curtain.  In 1985, during the United Nations International Year of Youth, the simple wooden Cross would become forever associated with World Youth Days. Thus began the great pilgrimage of the World Youth Day Cross to every corner of the globe.  In 1985, the Cross traveled throughout Europe – to Italy, France, Luxembourg, Ireland, Scotland, Malta and Germany.

The largest pilgrimage of the Cross

While the Cross has been part of every World Youth Day since the beginning, I would like to focus in on one particular international event when the Cross made is most arduous and perhaps most historic pilgrimage.  On Palm Sunday, April 11, 2001, the World Youth Day Cross was entrusted to the Canadian Church by Italian youth who had hosted the Great Jubilee World Youth Day in 2000 during an impressive ceremony in St. Peter’s Square.  The following day, the Cross was flown across the Atlantic and began its longest pilgrimage across an enormous country, travelling for the next 14 months by commercial airline, light aircraft, dog sled, pick-up truck, tractor, bus, sail boat and fishing boat. It visited parish churches, youth detention centres, hospitals and nursing homes, prisons, schools, universities, national historic sites, shopping casino online centres, downtown streets, nightclub districts and parks.

This Canadian “Cross” pilgrimage was interrupted for three days in February 2002 when, with the permission and blessing of Pope John Paul II, it was taken to Ground Zero in New York as a sign of hope for the people of the United States and of the entire world in the wake of the September 11th tragedy.

Earlier on a cold February morning at a mass in a parish church near the United Nations, Archbishop Renato Martino, the Vatican’s Ambassador to the UN told a delegation of Canadian youth, Emergency Medical Workers, Canadian police and firefighters in his moving homily:  “What you will see today when you visit Ground Zero is the consequence of sin: a crater of dirt and ashes, of human destruction and sorrow; a vestige of sin that is so evil that words could never suffice to explain it.  Nevertheless, it is never enough to talk about the effects of terrorism, the destruction it causes, or those who perpetrate it…  We do a disservice to those who have died in this tragedy if we fail to search out the causes.  In this search, a broad canvas of political, economic, social, religious and cultural factors emerge.  The common denominator in these factors is hate, a hate that transcends any one people or region.  It is a hatred of humanity itself, and it kills even the one who hates.”

From that liturgy, New York City police and firefighters escorted our convoy of buses, that had been wrapped with the words of Pope John Paul II: “The Cross walks with young people and young people walk with the Cross” to lower Manhattan and into the massive area of destruction now known as Ground Zero.  What happened next was a very public act of defiance and courage.  Six young people from the World Youth Day 2002 delegation took the large cross out of the specially built trailer and processed with it up to the memorial platform built for the families of those who perished on September 11.  We all sang the Taizé refrain: “Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom”.  With us in procession was the family of one of the Canadian victims of the September 11 tragedy.  As the World Youth Day Cross was placed at the edge of the huge crater where the twin towers once stood, the singing grew louder, against the background sounds of trucks and cranes removing debris. Here in a place that spoke loudly of destruction, devastation, terror and death, we raised up a wooden cross – an instrument of death that has been transformed into the central life-giving symbol for Christians.  The significance of the action was lost on no one.

Since April 11, 2001, the World Youth Day Cross has literally touched the three oceans that border Canada. It has visited our cities, towns and rural areas, drawing throngs of people into the streets for processions, prayers, all-night vigils, tears, moments of reconciliation, healing and peace.  Such expressions of popular piety have been absent for far too many years from the Canadian ecclesial landscape.

Canadians are unlikely to forget the powerful images of the World Youth Day Cross on its historic, 43,000 kilometer pilgrimage through more than 350 cities, towns and villages – from sea to sea to sea to sea.

Through the largest pilgrimage of the Cross, Canadians rediscovered their country, and its deeply Christian roots.  In July 2002, the Pope referred to the pilgrimage of the Cross upon his arrival on Canadian soil: “In the French version of your national anthem, “O Canada”, you sing: “Car ton bras sait porter l’épée, il sait porter la croix. ” [Welcome Address at the Airport on July 23, 2002].

It is that same Cross that has served as an instrument of unity, healing and reconciliation for the people of Brazil and her neighboring countries over the past two years.

When all the commotion and noise of World Youth Day is over, I am convinced that one of the lasting memories that remains in the host country is the simple, wooden cross that has been a huge blessing and a source of consolation, healing, strength and peace to the hundreds of thousands of people who have embraced it, touched it, kissed it, and allowed themselves to be touched by the awesome message and memory of the one who died upon it.


Photo: Young people carry the World Youth Day cross to city hall in Rio de Janeiro July 10 as Brazilians make final preparations for World Youth Day and the visit by Pope Francis. Young people from around the globe with join the pontiff for the celebration in R io July 23-28. (CNS photo/Ricardo Moraes, Reuters)

Pope announces theme for WYD Rio de Janeiro 2013

Pope Benedict XVI announces the theme for the next World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2013: “Go and make disciples of all peoples” (Matthew 28:19).

En Route to Rio

Most avid WYD fans who were watching carefully during the final mass at Cuatro Vientos in Madrid noticed a team of young people from Brazil receiving the WYD cross from a delegation of Spanish youth. Normally the handover of the cross is done on the Palm Sunday following WYD. This time the handover was done at the closing Mass for a few reasons, the first being that Brazil has only two years to prepare for their event, and the second being that the cross casino has to travel through 275 dioceses before the youth of the world arrive in Rio in 2013.

The cross and icon are scheduled to arrive in Sao Paolo Brazil this September 18th. The Archdiocese of Sao Paolo has planned a prayer vigil with the youth of Sao Paolo. According to the website Jovens Conectados, the official website of the youth ministry office of the Brazilian Bishops conference, the vigil will take place in Campo Marte and will feature music by Catholic bands such as Rosa de Saron, testimonies by young people who have participated in other world youth days, and a Mass celebrated by the cardinal archbishop of Sao Paolo, Odilo Scherer.

Photo Credit: © Mazur/

WYD 2013, Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro will host the next World Youth Day in 2013. Pope Benedict XVI announced at the Final Mass, before millions of young pilgrims at the military airbase of Cuatro Vientos in Madrid.

“I am pleased now to announce that the next World Youth day will be held in 2013, in Rio de Janeiro”