Sunday 28th July was the final WYD Mass on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro. The day before we had walked from our accommodation, the 9 kilometres to Copacabana beach with hundreds of thousands of pilgrims. Our early start had ensured that we had a good spot, only 3 screens back from the stage. On the Saturday afternoon, our Sao Judas parish friends joined us, and we slept together under the Rio sky on one of the world’s most famous beaches. At times of being more mindful – we caught ourselves in our ‘wow can you believe this’ moments. Sleeping on the beach was an interesting but wonderful festive experience not to mention being awaken by an amazing sunrise over Sugar Loaf Mountain with random air horns in the distance waking everybody up. This was World Youth Day in such a youthful setting – the sands of Copacabana – with the constant sound of the waves lapping against the shore.
Three million (estimated) people assembled along the four kilometres of Copacabana Beach to welcome Pope Francisco for the last time. In his homily he urged us, with his typical simple approach, to reach out “to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most indifferent. The Church needs you, your enthusiasm, your creativity and the joy that is so characteristic of you!” The music, singing and prayerfulness for many pilgrims makes this Mass the pinnacle of WYD. It was a great celebration and great to be part of the second biggest Catholic gathering ever. At the end of Mass to the shouts of joy from polish pilgrims Pope Francis announced that Krakow would hold the next international World Youth Day celebration in 2016.
After the Mass, for the final time we farewelled our Sao Judas family. Who would have known the impact that these young people would have on our group; they are not only our friends but are now family. So after a few more tears we made our way back to Aussie Central by foot and bus. We chanted as we walked down the roads of Rio and walked proudly as the Catholic youth of the world wearing blue and yellow backpacks as badges of honour. All pilgrims of the world who attended WYD in Brazil walked in unison for the last time.
Near Aussie Central we stopped for some food with other Australian Pilgrims and shared stories from the past two days. Upon arrival at Aussie Central, we quickly packed our bags for the next part of our journey, a time of retreat in the hills of Rio to unpack our experience.
Robyn and Carina