.- The Church in Rio de Janeiro said locals welcome with open arms – like the massive statue of Christ the Redeemer that overlooks the city – the young people who will visit for World Youth Day in 2013.
“We are awaiting all the young people with open hearts, with our arms open,” Archbishop Orani Joao Tempesta said in an interview with Vatican Radio.
He said the preparations for the July 23-28 event next year, where Pope Benedict is slated to make an appearance, have been intense, and that organizers hope to bring the Gospel to the greatest number of young people possible.
The archbishop encouraged all Catholics to join together “and pray to God, so that young people – together with Jesus Christ – can be the ones to announce a new world in the city of Rio, Brazil and the entire world.”
Last Sunday, 50,000 Brazilian youth gathered for a pre-WYD celebration in Rio under the theme, “Prepare the Way.”
After the recitation of the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI addressed the gathering in Rio via satellite and said global youth event “will be a precious occasion for many young people to experience the joy and beauty of belonging to the Church and living the faith.”
The coordinator of Portuguese programming for Vatican Radio, Silvonei Protz, said the praying the Angelus with the Holy Father “was like an explosion of joy, but also made us aware of the responsibility that young Brazilians, together with the Church in Brazil, have towards all the youth of the entire world.”
According to Protz, “Prepare the Way” was a marvelous gathering characterized by the arrival of the icon of Our Lady of Aparecida, brought by Cardinal Raymundo Damasceno Assis.
The Apostolic Nuncio to Brazil, Archbishop Giovanni D’Aniello, also attended the event. He will meet with WYD organizers on August 10 to discuss the challenges, difficulties and hopes of young people.
Archbishop D’Aniello will later present the conclusions of the meeting to the Holy Father in order to “bear witness to what the young people expect of Benedict XVI in Rio.”
Protz said the Church in Brazil is really alive, as “young people see that they do not only belong to their parish, but rather to a Church that goes beyond that and that has the person of Christ at the center.”
“I think this awakening of the faith and the role of young people in our Church will bear fruit after WYD as well,” he said.