Here is a translation of the text of a video-message Pope Francis sent to the people of Brazil, on the occasion of the celebrations of the New Year and for the beginning of the celebrations of the 450th anniversary of the foundation of Rio de Janeiro. The video was projected just before midnight on New Year’s Eve on giant screens set up on Copacabana beach.
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Dear Brazilian People,
I address you with great joy, on the eve of the New Year that will mark the beginning of the celebrations for the 450 years of the foundation of the city of Saint Sebastian of Rio de Janeiro, to greet, in such a happy circumstance, the beloved Carioca people who welcomed me with open arms on the occasion of the 2013 World Youth Day, and to light the new illumination system of the statue of Christ [of Corcovado], as Blessed Pope Paul VI did 50 years ago, which symbolizes the light that the Lord wants to light in our lives.
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, on 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. Dear Carioca people: “Trust in Him, and He will help you; make your ways straight, and hope in Him. You who fear the Lord, wait for His mercy” (Sirach 2:6)!
Today, if we could place ourselves in the perspective of Christ the Redeemer who from the summit of the Corcovado dominates the city’s geography, what would spring to our eyes? 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. On one hand, the contrast generated by the great social disparities: opulence and poverty, injustices, violence … On the other, we have what we could call “the invisible city,” or human groups or territories that have particular cultural features. Sometimes it seems that several cities exist, whose coexistence is not always easy in a multi-cultural and complex reality. 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.
And what is the way to follow? We cannot stay with our “folded arms,” but must open our arms like Christ the Redeemer. Thus the way begins with constructive dialogue. Because “between egoistic indifference and violent protest there is always an option possible: dialogue – dialogue between generations, dialogue between the people, because we are all people” (Address to the Ruling Class of Brazil, July 27, 2013). In this connection, it is good to recognize 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. Concretely, I believe that everyone can learn much from the example of generosity and solidarity of the simplest people, from that generous wisdom of being able to <”stretch the broth of the beans”> 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. Therefore, in lighting the lights of Corcovado, I make my own the words pronounced by Blessed Paul VI on January 1, 1965: May “this light, illuminating the city of Rio de Janeiro, spread throughout Brazil” (Paul VI, Insegnamenti, III).
Thus, placing these wishes at the feet of Our Lady of Aparecida and thanking Cardinal Orani Tempesta for the opportunity given me to be able to address this message to you, I express my congratulations to all Cariocas and to the Brazilian people for this “anniversary celebration,” asking you, please, to pray always for me. And with the wish of a Happy Year 2015, I sent to each and all my Apostolic Blessing. Thank you.[Original text: Portuguese] [Translation by ZENIT]