.- On the same day that Brazilian Catholics honor their patroness, Our Lady of Aparecida, the country is celebrating Oct. 12, 2011 as the 80th anniversary of Rio’s famous “Christ the Redeemer” statue.
“The monument is an icon of Rio de Janeiro,” said Rio's Archbishop Orani João Tempesta.
He said the statue “represents the Brazilian citizen: as a person who follows Jesus Christ, and welcomes others, as the monument does with its open arms.”
Rio de Janeiro's inhabitants are not the only ones celebrating the statue's 80th year. Believers throughout Brazil feel blessed by the presence of the Redeemer atop Mount Corcovado.
The monument is 130 feet tall, and spans 98 feet from one of Christ's outstretched hands to the other. It weighs 635 tons and stands at the highest point in the Tijuca Forest National Park, overlooking the city.
Brazil's Catholic population – the largest of any country in the world – funded its construction with donations from parishes across the country. Numbered among the “Seven Wonders of the Modern World,” the monument officially became a sanctuary for Catholic worship on Oct. 12, 2006.
Now, thousands of pilgrims attend Mass, Eucharistic adoration, Marian devotions, and other Catholic ceremonies at a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Aparecida at the feet of the monument.
As Rio residents celebrate the statue's anniversary, they are also looking forward to 2013, when the city will host World Youth Day.
“Celebrating the 80th anniversary of 'Christ the Redeemer,' as we start the preparations for World Youth Day, is a great gift and a major grace,” said Archbishop Tempesta.
“The young people announce Christ in the World Youth Days, and here, in Rio de Janeiro, they will be able to encounter the one whom they announce – for his image is the landmark of our city.”