Pope Francis is inviting the people of Brazil to open their arms in dialogue, just as the Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking Rio de Janeiro has its arms open.

The Pope said this in a video-message broadcast on New Year’s Eve from Copacobana Beach.

The Holy Father sent the message as Rio de Janeiro marks a year of celebrations for the 450th anniversary of its foundation.

"Four hundred and fifty years represent by now a venerable history; the history of a courageous and joyous people that has never allowed itself to be overcome by difficulties, following the example of its holy protector, the Roman martyr Sebastian, who after being struck by arrows and held to be dead, did not cease to give witness of Christ to his contemporaries; the history of a city that since its birth has been characterized by faith," he said.

The Pope invited the people to look at their city from the perspective of the famous near-100 foot Christ the Redeemer statue, which overlooks the city from the summit of the 2,300-foot Corcovado mountain.

What would we see, he asked. "In the first place, undoubtedly, the natural beauty that justifies the nickname 'Wonderful City'; however, it is undeniable that, from the summit of the Corcovado we would perceive at the same time the contradictions that stain this beauty."

He went on to speak of the "great social disparities": opulence and poverty, injustices, violence. And the "human groups or territories that have particular cultural features" making it sometimes seem that "several cities exist" in a difficult coexistence.

"However, in face of this picture, we do not lose hope! God dwells in this city! God dwells in this city! Jesus, the Redeemer, does not ignore the needs and sufferings of those who are here, on earth! His open arms invite us to overcome these divisions and to build a city united by solidarity, justice and peace," the Pope said.

"We cannot stay with our 'folded arms,' but must open our arms like Christ the Redeemer," he exhorted.

He called for constructive dialogue, saying it is the option always present between "egoistic indifference" and "violent protest." 

As well, he recommended recognizing that "regardless of the degree of education or wealth, every person has something that he can contribute to the building of a more just and fraternal society."

In this regard, he noted the "generosity and solidarity" of the poor, saying they always find a way to share even the little they have. He referred to this as "generous wisdom" of which "our world is in such need."

"Dear friends, I am sure that the 'Wonderful City' has much to offer Brazil and the world," he concluded. "Therefore, in lighting the lights of Corcovado, I make my own the words pronounced by Blessed Paul VI on Jan. 1, 1965: May 'this light, illuminating the city of Rio de Janeiro, spread throughout Brazil.'"


On ZENIT’s Web page:

Full translation: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-s-message-to-brazilians-as-rio-marks-450th-anniversary