By Fiona Hurrell, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – As July approaches the city of Rio is expecting to receive millions of young people arriving for Catholic World Youth Day (WYD). In accordance with this year’s message “Go and Make disciples of all nations” the city will be transformed with activities and events, attracting people of all ages and nationalities.
The Catholic World Youth Day officially starts with the arrival of “the pilgrims” on Tuesday, July 23rd, however this is preceded by Mission week from July 16th-20th (some diocese, such as Niterói, will start mission week early on the 14th or 15th).
This will take place within all the diocese of Brazil, in an effort to ensure no one is left out, and allowing the travelers to settle in early with their host families and other accommodations.
It also offers the chance for them and their hosts to learn about their different cultures with daily activities offered in each of the parishes.
The actual WYD event kicks off on Tuesday, July 23rd and runs until Sunday, July 28th with the arrival of Pope Francis on Thursday the 25th. Pope Francis will be driven down the Avenida Atlântica from Forte Copacabana to Leme as part of a special welcome ceremony.
The Pope will then perform a vigil on Saturday, 27th in Campus Fidei (Field of Faith) – an area purpose-built for WYD in Guaratiba. The Pope will officially bring WYD to a close by giving the final mass which, again, takes place at Campus Fidei on Sunday, 28th.
One of the biggest highlights over the course of the week is the youth festival, which will transpire in various locations across the city. The objective is to promote the meeting of man and God through musical events, theatrical and dance performances, art exhibitions and much more.
Carol de Castro is an event coordinator for WYD 2013 and anticipates a huge number of people attending the festivities, stating, “The central acts in Copacabana and Campus Fidei will receive thousands of people. The size of Campus Fidei corresponds to seven Maracanã stadiums.”
For many children and young people, not only is the event an opportunity to feel closer to God, it also offers the chance to make new friends. At the Catholic Our Lady of Mercy School in Botafogo preparations are being made to receive many pilgrims over the course of the event.
School Dean Ivana Barcelos reveals, “We will have approximately 120 young people staying with us at the school and the students are very excited to meet them and get involved.”
Also on the calendar is the ALPHA course at the parish of São Paulo Apóstolo in Copacabana. The trilingual course stretches from Tuesday, July 23rd to Friday, July 26th and is aimed at children between the ages of 11 and 18.
Jeremy Lovelace is the British acting director of ALPHA based in Rio and explains, “The aim is to give the youth traveling to Rio a chance to experience a Youth Alpha course. We are seeing more and more Catholic parishes using the Alpha course throughout Latin America, and it would be great if our activities can serve as an encouragement to youth leaders throughout the continent.”
Elsewhere, events will occur in accordance with the WYD dates, uniting other christian communities with activities such as the afternoon Anglican encounter which will take place on Wednesday, 24th at the Anglican Cathedral in Tijuca.
Mark Simpson is curate at Rio’s local Anglican church, Christ Church. He reveals, “The idea is that each of the Anglican churches and Diocese in Rio, as well as their partners around the world, send one young person for an afternoon of activities. It’s a bilingual event which we hope will bring everyone together.”