Rio has been invaded by 450,000 pilgrims, World Youth Day organizers said during a briefing July 22.
As of Monday July 22, the day the pope was scheduled to arrive in Brazil, nearly half a million pilgrims had already arrived in the city through one of Rio de Janeiro’s two airports, Fr. Marcio Queiroz told journalists.
Those pilgrims were gathered in downtown Rio de Janeiro, mobbing the pope’s vehicle as it made its way to the Cathedral of St. Sebastian. At times the pope’s security team had to push away pilgrims to clear a path for the papal motorcade.
At the Rio Cathedral the pope switched from the closed vehicle that brought him to the cathedral, in favour of an open jeep that carried him through the city’s downtown core.
Stopping at the Municipal Theatre the pope once again swapped vehicles, getting back into the grey Fiat Idea he rode in from the airport. At Santos Drumond airport the pope boarded a waiting helicopter to take him to the state governor’s palace.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was waiting at Guanabara Palace, the official residence of the governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro, to greet Pope Francis. President Rousseff called for applause for the first Latin American pope before proceeding with her address. She thanked the volunteers who have been working to make the Pope’s trip a reality, referring to the World Youth Day Volunteers.
She said Pope Francis’ priesthood, which is focused on the poor, is an example of his closeness to all people. The Brazilian president referred to a speech the pope made May 16, when he spoke about the globalization of indifference. President Rousseff said she believes this phenomenon is one of the world’s biggest problems and underlined the long standing cooperation between the Catholic church in Brazil and the government.
Closing off her speech she said “Brazilians are men and women of faith who believe in a better tomorrow,” that is why young people rose up to ask for better life conditions, she said. Rousseff added that most youth condemned the violence that happened during what were supposed to be peaceful protests.
Pope Francis addressed Brazilians, asking their permission to spend a week with them. “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”
The pope made it clear that this visit to Brazil was bigger than the visit of a head of state. He said, “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.”
Explaining the need for World Youth Day, Pope Francis said “Christ offers them [young people] 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.”
The pope called on “our generation” to create the “material and spiritual conditions for their full development”
President Rousseff presented the Holy Father with a bronze sculpture of a what appears to be a Franciscan friar, reading an open book. The sculpture is the design of Joao Turin, a Brazilian sculptor who died in 1949. Turin made a plaster mold for the statue but did not have the money to buy the bronze needed to forge the statue. Turin had placed the plaster mold on a piece of newspaper which stuck to the plaster and is still attached to the mold. The piece of newspaper which is still visible today, is a piece from the front page, announcing the visit of Pope Pius XIII to Brazil in 1934.
Pope Francis was expected to go to Sumaré, the Archbishop’s official residence, where he will stay for the duration of his visit.
(CNS PHOTO/ Reuters)