Bishop Anthony’s WYD Blog for 20-22 July
|Photo: Alphonsus Fok. Watch Bishop Anthony's video from Cristo Redentor at www.parrawyd.org |
20, 21 & 22 July (Sat, Sun & Mon)
After arriving in Rio our pilgrims settled in to Aussie Central. It's a large portside warehouse we have subdivided into dormitories for all the Aussies, with mattresses supplied, showers (limited), toilets, medical attention (excellent) and security. It is in a good position and has worked well.
After settling in, we made our way up Corcovado Mountain in small groups. I went twice for extended periods so I could accompany several of our groups. The famous view of Rio harbour with the Cristo Redentor statue overlooking it was truly a sight to behold.
The first morning I had a very clear view; the second morning, there was a lot of cloud and fog and the statue looked in turns mysterious and then clear as it broke through the mist.
I explained to our young people that this most famous statue of Christ is a multi-layered symbol. It is Christ as Creator-God, reigning not only over Rio but the whole world, not just over our World Youth Day but over every Christian heart.
He holds his arms wide open, demonstrating that He is not a god who creates things and then forgets them; He is the Provident God, the God who cares, who holds everything and everyone in the palm of His hand, from the entire cosmos to the individual pilgrim, holds them in being, in grace, in blessing.
It is also Christ our Redeemer-God, forging the new creation, His outstretched arms recalling His crucifixion, His priestly self-offering and His Sacred Heart. Jesus reveals that our Creator-Provident God is also our Merciful Redeemer, His arms wide open for everyone in need of forgiveness, assistance, redemption, hope.
Because the statue is shining white, stands atop a mountain and is often surrounded by clouds, it also evokes Christ's transfiguration and ascension.
Christ has been revealing His divine glory to our pilgrims in various ways during our journey, just as He did to his disciples. And He ascends to His Father not to abandon us but to draw us after Himself to heaven.
With our heads literally in the clouds for a time we came down from the mountain, rather like the apostles after the Transfiguration and again after the Ascension, with a vision of Christ in our eyes and a determination to be His disciples and evangelists back in our everyday worlds.
On the way down an extraordinary thing happened. The funicular railway stopped and the driver got out. As if recompense for missing the natural wonder of the Iguazu Falls, a giant tree sloth was lying on the tracks sun-baking and performing for us. It was like being in the middle of a National Geographic film.
The head and claws and slow-moving furry body were even more strange and cute than I'd imagined. It re-emphasised to me what an extraordinary cosmos the Cristo Redentor holds in His hand. The train driver eventually persuaded the sloth to move. There is video of it here.
Even as this group left the mountain, clouds moved in that would dog this WYD week. By the next day it was raining and this continued almost all week. It would have a dramatic effect on the week's events.
In the days that followed our young people took part in various youth festival events and roamed the streets and the WYD venues, especially Copacabana beach, mixing with young pilgrims of every nation.
They visited the metropolitan cathedral of St Sebastian, an awe-inspiring if not beautiful modernist concrete cone. Built between 1964 and 1979 it’s about 100m across and 75m high and has a standing-room capacity of 20,000 people. So it is big!
The 64m high stained glass windows are especially impressive. As the streets of Sydney had been five years ago, the streets of Rio are full of joyful song, pilgrims with flags exchanging mementos and good will, the hopes and dreams of a new generation.
Pope Francis arrived on Monday and on arrival explained his mission: "I am here to meet the young people of the world, drawn to the open arms of Christ the Redeemer. They seek refuge in His embrace, close to His heart. They will listen again to His clear and powerful appeal: Go and make disciples of all nations.
"These young people are from every continent, speak many languages, bring with them different cultures. Yet they all find in Christ the answer to their highest aspirations – the answer that satisfies their 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 that released in the hearts of young people when they have been conquered by 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."
We look forward to the main events of WYD week, starting with the Opening Mass tomorrow.
Read all pilgrim blog posts at www.parrawyd.org
Go to WYD13 Pilgrimage Photo Gallery - Rio 21 July
Go to WYD13 Pilgrimage Photo Gallery - Rio 22 July
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