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Brazil's World Youth Day will be bigger than the World Cup

An interview about this momentous, perhaps even crucial, event with Brazilian cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz.

Brazil's World Youth Day will be bigger than the World Cup
Alessandro Speciale
Vatican City

January 31, 2013

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World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro is less than six months away. The event is crucial, not just for the Church – almost half the world’s Catholics live in Latin America and yet this is where the Church faces the toughest competition with dynamic Evangelical movements and the rise of secularism - the result of growing affluence in the region – but for Brazil as well: the World Youth Day is the first of three huge events that will bring the South American giant into the limelight of international attention.

The other two events are: the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016. Vatican Insider caught up with Brazilian cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, as he prepares to attend the annual meeting of bishops, friends of the Focolare movement, being held in the next couple of days in Rome.

Your Eminence, are Rio and Brazil all set for the WYD?

In terms of facility preparation things are going very well. Initially, the police, particularly in Rio, focused their attention on the World Cup and the Olympics as they had not quite realised the scope of this event. Whilst the World Cup will attract 300-500 thousand spectators, a million and a half to two million people will be here for the WYD. Initially, they couldn’t understand why we were talking such figures. “Didn’t you see what happened in Madrid?” we answered. Now the issue has been resolved.

But the list of things left to do is still pretty long…

Of course. For instance there is only one tunnel that connects one part of the city to the other. What are we going to do in cases where events take place far away from one another? Some of the locations where the Pope is expected to be are quite far apart… But we are aware of the problems that exist and have very practical and concrete ways of resolving them. It has to be said that the police are really on top of the game. And co-ordination between Rome and Rio is very strong in terms of the event’s organisation.

Benedict XVI is so keen to be present at the WYD that it’s the only international trip he has put in his diary for 2013, for now anyway. How will Latin America welcome the Pope?

Over the years, the WYD has become an increasingly important event for the Church. It has a strong resonance in Latin America in particular, as the presence of young people in the Continent’s countries is still very strong and people continue to show a great openness in their search for the meaning of life. The Pope’s visit presents a wonderful opportunity for these people and their identities.

Benedict XVI’s first visit in 2007 was not considered to have been much of a success…

I was in São Pauloat the time. People initially thought “this Pope is too much of a theologian and an academic, he won’t have much of a relationship with the people.” But when the Pope turned up, people’s conception changed entirely. It was an event for the whole Continent and there was understanding there. The doubts some people had because this Pope is considered so different to John Paul II, went away.

Basic Ecclesial Communities linked to the Liberation Theology movement  - whose importance you yourself have recognised - will also be involved in the WYD. What will this mean?

In the Brazilian Church we are witnessing the ongoing problem of poverty although things are beginning to improve. But as the years have gone by it has become apparent that ideology is not the way to address this issue. The Church has recognised the Basic Ecclesial Communities, yes. What we need though, is for them to look for solutions to social problems through the perspective of faith rather than looking at them from an ideological and sociological point of view. I think this is something the Pope is going to place a great deal of focus on. The context we are living in is different to that of the 70’s and 80’s.

Full Story: “Brazil hadn’t realised that the WYD is bigger than the World Cup” 

Source: Vatican Insider/La Stampa

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