The Wonderful City Awaits "The Wonderful Pope"

At dawn, shortly before the rays of the sun of the tropics caress the crest of the calm and scintillating waters of Guanabara Bay, Rio is enveloped by a mist evocative of poetry and inspirer of mysteries.

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The curtain is raised with the passing hours, in a crescendo of colors and scents, sounds and flavors that make up the “wonderful city.”

Rio is the sum of all that is Brazilian, a purgatory of beauty and chaos, where its inhabitants, moving almost to the rhythm of samba, construct chronicles and metaphors.

A legend narrates that an Irish sailor, whose religious faith was about to die drowned in whisky, disembarked at Rio on October 12, 1931.

Upon descending from the ship and setting foot on Maua Square, he looked up casually at the sky and, all of a sudden, up there, in the distance, Jesus Christ appeared from nothing, phosphorescent , standing and with his arms open circling above the city. At the sight of that vision, the sailor almost fainted, ran to the ship, entrusted himself to the chaplain and swore that he would never again drink. It was for him a sign and invitation to rediscover temperance, which so many lose in the excesses of carnival.

The poor sailor did not even imagine that the vision was the gigantic statue of the Redeemer on the Corcovado hill, illuminated by the experiment of Guglielmo Marconi, who sent from his boat anchored in the Gulf of Naples a radio signal picked up at Dorchester, bounced to Jacarepagua and finally destined to the receivers-interrupters of the port that overlooks Copacabana.

Beginning July 22 a new signal will leave from the Tyrrhenian Sea when Pope Francis will take the flight to illuminate from Rio a whole generation, a generation of hope in the Continent, of the hope that is Latin America.

It will not be a radio frequency but a presence, a voice, a testimony of Father and Pastor, in a world lacking paternity and creativity.

Both are elements that are characterizing the pontificate of the Pope who came from “the end of the world,” of the New World, with a new “way  of doing” things, in which the embrace of cultures facilitates relation without prejudices.

What will be Pope Francis’ impressions on arriving at Rio?

On entering a bay in the month of January, which seemed like the mouth of a river (Rio de Janeiro), Amerigo Vespuccii was fascinated by a natural masterpiece made of hills and mountains , lakes and beaches, under an endless sky.

Pope Francis will be inspired by this infinite beauty to recall young people to Beauty without end “ever old and ever new” before it is too late to love it.

Rio is a permanent promise of sun on eighty kilometers of beaches, good humor and liberty, stemming from the long tradition of friendly hospitality and asylum to anyone who asks for it: warriors, missionaries, refugees, politicians, religious renegades, victims of racial persecutions, immigrants from all parts of the world and even fugitives from justice. In the country where liberation has developed into a theological system, the Pope will invite to true liberty, that which is built on the truth of our being and doing as children of God.

Rio has been from time to time, the Eden dreamt by utopians, the failed Antarctic France, a port of pirates and corsairs, an emporium of gold and slaves, the capital of a European empire, a court of operetta, the “Wonderful City,” the land of carnival and a “Mecca” of corruption.

The aspiration to the “lost paradise” of progenitors and of generations of parents , can begin again from Rio, from this trip in which the Successor of Peter wishes to confirm his brothers in the faith and illuminate so many young people with spent eyes and incapable of scrutinizing the distant horizon.

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Alfonso Maria Bruno

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