“You show that faith is stronger than the cold and rain”. On Thursday evening on Copocabana beach Pope Francis inaugurated the welcome celebration for the young people with a tribute to the hundreds and thousands of young men and women — the figure of more than a million is already being cited — who came despite the rain. In his opening greeting he immediately won the hearts of the people at the WYF with a few simple words, some of which he added to the prepared text, speaking off the cuff: when he praised the hosts, the huge number of young Cariocans who are giving hospitality in these days to their peers from every latitude; when he remembered Benedict XVI, encouraging applause for him because, he said, “at this moment he is watching us” on television; and when he asked that a moment of recollection be observed for Sophie Morinière, the 23-year-old Parisian who died in Mission Week that precedes the WYD. Sixty long, stunning seconds of silence followed during which the young men and women gathered on the well known beach of Rio paid homage to one of themselves, a girl whose journey to Brazil was abruptly cut short by a road accident in French Guiana. And together with her the Pope also recalled those prevented from coming by financial or health problems.
It is a celebration that will conclude in this setting since the organizers were obliged to move the prayer vigil on Saturday evening here, as well as the concluding Mass on Sunday. They were both originally to have been held at Guaratiba. This decision was taken only a few hours earlier, given the impossibility of rendering functional the vast open space, re-baptized “Campus fidei”, where an impressive podium had been set up for the papal celebrations. Unfortunately the heavy downpour in these past few days has caused flooding about 20 cm deep, making the whole area muddy and impracticable. The Rio WYD will thus be one that has been celebrated on the beach throughout, an unprecedented event which for this very reason is also destined to live on in its most significant moments.
St. Peter’s Square
March 20, 2019
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