Cardinal George Pell Reflects on WYD Rio Experience - Interview at Iguazu Falls

Last updated at 2013-08-05 2:48AM

Cardinal Pell and a group of Sydney pilgrims have spent the last few days at the magnificent Iguazu Falls on the border of Brazil and Argentina - debriefing on their WYD pilgrimage to Peru and the huge events in Rio de Janeiro with Pope Francis.

In this video, Cardinal Pell reflects on his own experience, the reaction by millions of young people to Pope Francis and the future of World Youth Days.

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A Reflection on WYD Rio by Xt3 Blogger Selina Hasham

Last updated at 2013-08-01 5:33AM

On my third day in Rio de Janeiro I had not yet seen what I came to see.

The iconic Cristo Redentor statue atop Corcovado mountain, the hero of photo panoramas of picturesque Rio was veiled from view. Shrouded in a cloud of fog and mist the outstretched arms of Christ the Redeemer remained hidden from hundreds of thousands of young pilgrims streaming into Rio for World Youth Day celebrations with Pope Francis.

Each day I searched the dramatic and mountainous Rio cityscape for the familiar cross that appears on so much of our WYD promotional paraphernalia.

Day four, the welcome Ceremony for Pope Francis and still no Christ the Redeemer. Where was he? Grey skies loomed and the heavens opened. This wasn't how I'd imagined the week to turn out.

For the 1,800 Aussies that had come to Rio, the weather was a foreboding prospect for the days ahead. Torrential rain had washed out the Papal Mass and sleep out site and kept umbrella stalls and rain poncho street vendors in business. And everywhere, soaked and soggy pilgrims walked the streets, jumping puddles, clothes drenched but spirits undampened.

With arms outstretched as if to embrace the city of Rio, the Cristo Redentor is an impressive structure. The largest Art Deco statue of Christ in the world it was completed in 1931, stands 38 metres tall and has become a world renowned icon of the city. The Christ figure is triumphant. In the shape of a cross, this is no suffering Christ, but a bold figure of strength pronouncing redemption for everyone.

Shocking then that the city of Rio is flung out under Christ's confident embrace in such spectacular disorder. Poverty and opulence lay down side by side, carnivale shouts of celebration while the favelas emit the desperate cry of the poor. Beautiful people adorn Copacabana, while street kids are branded as city vermin and targeted for extermination. Like the biggest and boldest of any urban metropolis today, the battle for survival rages in the mess of humanity.

Christ the Redeemer stretches his arms of love over all this chaos. His message is the same for the rich and the poor - salvation is available for all. In Jesus Christ every human being has a purpose and a place. This was the message of Pope Francis to the 3.5 million strong crowd on Copacabana beach: God has a plan for your life. No one is a mistake, no life is wasted, every person is a treasure to be lived and celebrated with hope and love. We are only here for a little while. Live well and make a difference while you have breath in your lungs.

The day arrived for the vigil and sleep out followed by Mass the following morning. The clouds finally gave way to clearer skies and there he was on the 2,300 ft peak of Corcovado mountain.

He looked down upon the millions who had gathered on Copacabana. They had come from every race and nation. They were mostly young. They formed a holy mess of humanity and Copacbana beach was blessed by their presence.

Perhaps it was by divine design that the venue was changed at the last minute. The original gathering space for the Papal Mass was a large expanse of land many kilometres West of the city centre that had been rendered a swamp land by torrential rain. In the days before the event they had caught alligators there. The move to Copacabana was welcomed by many.

And now, this iconic location was to be sanctified not only by the presence of Pope Francis, but by the young face of the Church, singing, praying, sleeping out in peaceful vigil for a higher purpose.

On a clear day, there would be some in Rio who could still not see the risen Christ in their lives due to the fog of poverty, neglect, drug abuse and the chaos of sin.

Even many young Australians, from a country so richly blessed cannot see the embrace of a loving God due to the dark cloud of faithlessness formed by a secular age.

But whatever the weather, he is there. Seen or unseen, Christ stretches out his arms to embrace the greatest and the least. Through the clouds of our personal chaos and the darkness of our human weakness he will eventually emerge to reveal a message of hope for every soul.

All the more reason then for the young believers who gathered with Pope Francis at Copacobana under the arms of Christ the Redeemer to go out from there and be his presence in a world so needy for love.

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Justin and Tony Re-Cap the WYD2013 Week from Iguazu Falls - Xt3's WYD Video Blog 11

Published at 2013-07-31 11:12PM

World Youth Day 2013 is over - and Sydney Pilgrims Justin and Tony re-cap all the highlights about their amazing week in Rio, while on a post-WYD retreat at Iguazu Falls.

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Cardinal Pell's Catechesis Session at WYD Rio, 24 July 2013 - Xt3's WYD Video Blog 10

Last updated at 2013-07-31 11:15PM

On Wednesday 24 July 2013, Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, delivered an inspiring Catechesis address to English-speaking pilgrims during World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro. You can listen to his address in full in this video!

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Pope –acabana! Three Million Celebrate Closing Mass with Pope Francis

Published at 2013-07-29 1:26AM

More than three million people crowded onto one of the world’s most famous strips of beach to welcome the first Latin American pope and take part in the closing mass of World Youth Day 2013.

Torrential rain during the week forced a change of venue and Rio’s Copacabana beach became a pilgrim site for the youth of the world.

But no-one was complaining. In fact local reports say most thought this site was preferable and certainly more spectacular.

The mass was filled with original Brazilian music, colour, joy and prayer. And like everywhere Pope Francis has been he was greeted with great enthusiasm.

Looking out over the massive crowd that stretched kilometres down the beach, Pope Francis urged young Catholic to go out and spread their faith “to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most indifferent.”

“The Church needs your enthusiasm, your creativity and the joy that is so characteristic of you!”

The Holy Father’s non-stop agenda was followed live on television for the week he was in Rio. However it was the morning of the Vigil, before the Closing Mass that saw millions pour on to the beach prompting the locals to call it “Pope-acabana”.

At last there was a break in the weather. The day warm and sunny, an ideal beach day.

But instead of carrying beach balls and surfboards, the young people from around the world brought their sleeping bags, Bibles and rosaries.

A quick dip at the famous beach wasn’t out of the question but by late afternoon everyone had staked out their position and awaited Pope Francis.

Light fades quickly this time of year in Rio9 and by the time Pope Francis boarded his popemobile for the journey along the beachfront the beach area and stage were a blaze of lights.

Normally a short drive this trip took more than an hour as once again the pope stopped to wave, kiss babies, accept gifts and laugh with the pilgrims.

The prayer Vigil is one of the highlights of World Youth Day prior to the Final Mass the following morning.

Between prayers and reflections Pope Francis told the crowd; “Here in Brazil, as in other countries, soccer is a national passion.

“Now, what do players do when they ask to join a team? They have to train, and to train a lot. The same is true of our lives as the Lord’s disciples.

“Jesus offers us something bigger than the World Cup. You are the athletes of Christ.

“I ask you to be actors of change, keep overcoming apathy and offering a Christian response to the social and political concerns taking place in different parts of the world,” he said.

Pope Francis went on to encourage the youth to follow three most fundamental points – “prayer, the Sacraments and help your neighbour”. And he encouraged them to repeat it with him.

Following his address the Holy Father initiated the moment of Adoration to the Blessed Sacrament, the central part of the Vigil.

When he left Copacabana the majority of young people unpacked their sleeping bags and waited for the final event for World Youth Day 2013. The Closing Mass – and the announcement of the city for the next World Youth Day.

When the popemobile appeared again in the morning for the final journey to the stage and altar, the crowd was even larger.

The pilgrims had woken from their slumber on the beach where they spent the night wrapped in sleeping bags and flags. They were ready to give the Holy Father one of the biggest welcomes for a Papal Mass in recent history.

Local media spoke of a “rock star welcome” with Pope Francis “drawing more people than the Rolling Stones in 2006”.

The Vatican bodyguards jogged alongside the popemobile, by now resigned to the fact the crowds would come as close as possible and Pope Francis would stop and talk or accept gifts along the way. The people obliged, tossing WYD T-shirts, soccer shirts and caps into the popemobile. Scores of babies were blessed and kissed and many sips of mate taken by the Holy Father which were offered to him along the way.

However when the mass began it was prayerful and very moving. When a moment of silence and reflection was called for following communion the only noise was the sound of the waves falling onto the beach.

Pope Francis told the pilgrims; “Bringing the Gospel is bringing God’s power to pluck up and break down evil and violence, to destroy and overthrow the barriers and selfishness, intolerance and hatred, so as to build a new world,”

Then it was time to announce the city for the next World Youth Day. The red and white flags near the front of the stage were a bit of a give away. Pope Francis said World Youth would be held in Krakow, Poland in 2016.

The 29th WYD will return to the homeland of the man who instituted this incredible event – an event many advised him would never take off because the youth of the world wouldn’t come. Of course by 2016 John Paul 11 will have been canonised.

The numbers in Krakow could well challenge Rio.

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