.- After three days of rain in Rio de Janeiro, World Youth Day planners have decided to change the location of the overnight prayer vigil and closing Mass to Copacabana beach.
The announcement was made July 25, as heavy rains continued to fall on the city.
The final World Youth Day events had originally been planned to take place July 27-28 in Campus Fidei - which means "Field of Faith" - in Guaratiba, some 30 miles away. However, the dirt field has become a giant mud pit due to the heavy rains, and it would pose problems for the expected crowds of more than one million.
The activities will now be transferred to Copacabana beach, which is already the site of the Opening Mass, Papal welcoming ceremony and Way of the Cross.
As a result of the change, participants will not make a 13 km pilgrimage, part of the original plan, as all motor vehicles would have been required to stop at a distance outside of Campus Fidei.
Additionally, pilgrims will not be spending the night at the beach, as they would have done at Campus Fidei. Organizers had spent months preparing the field for approximately one million overnight guests, ensuring adequate water, restrooms, medical facilities and other necessities. These preparations have not been made at Copacabana beach.
The new schedule ends with the Saturday prayer vigil with the Holy Father at 7:30 p.m. Events will resume on Sunday with Mass celebrated by Pope Francis at 10 a.m.
"It was a difficult decision, but responsible, always thinking in the safety of our pilgrims," explained Msgr. Paulo Cezar Costa, vice president of the Local Organizing Committee for World Youth Day.
"Copacabana has always been our plan B, and now we must apply it," he continued. "The pilgrims in Rio de Janeiro are already feeling the fruits of World Youth Day. Let's keep this World Youth Day cheerful and happy."