Today was the first official day of the World Youth Day celebrations in Rio!! And it was brilliant in every way!! This incredible city is alive with a spirit of joy, life and love. A slice of heaven on earth. We are here with pilgrims from all over the world and the joy is infectious. Flags, chants, song and dance fills the streets. You find yourself joining along with every one.
And so it began… after a well needed sleep-in, we made our way to San Sebastian Cathedral which looks like something out of Doctor Who from the outside but inside it has amazing stain glass windows and was crowded with thousands of pilgrims. The noise was incredible!! The place was alive and I am sure God was smiling down on us all. Amongst the thousands of pilgrims we were excited to run into people we knew, including our Sao Judas family. We were thrilled to be reunited with them, even though we only left them 2 days ago. 🙂
Together we went to lunch and then hopped on a packed train with hundreds of other pilgrims to head to Copacabana Beach. We are travelling with “Sao Judas” or “St Jude” our crocodile, who makes lots of friends along the way. On arrival at Copacabana beach, it was overwhelming. Never has there been such a setting for a WYD – beach, sand, a spectacular stage built on one end with a massive cross in the centre. And then thousands of pilgrims walking down the beach, coming together around the stage. Like moths to a flame. Us NT pilgrims looked at each other as to say “CAn you believe that we are here?” Some of us cried, some of us hugged, but all of us were smiling with every part of our being.
The Opening Mass was amazing with the beam of Christ the Redeemer shining every once and a while through the clouds (it is cold, raining and cloudy in Rio at the moment) and people from all nations waving their flags and singing their songs. Though it rained on and off it was a great way to officially open the celebrations of World Youth Day. On the way back to Aussie Central we were squashed in crowds, put our trusty croc, St Jude led the way. He is tall and stands out from the crowd and so lights our way.
We feel so welcome here. The Brazilian people are so helpful in every way. From complimentary coffees, to going out of their way to give directions, to waves, cheers and being so patient with our terrible portuguese, these are a people so loving, so generous and so welcoming. Oh how sad it is going to be to say goodbye, but alas for now – let’s party in the biggest Catholic party the world has ever seen.
We miss you all but keep you in our thoughts and prayers.
Melissa and Benita 🙂