Over 500,000 youth gathered at Copacabana Beach for the Opening Mass of the 28th World Youth Day. The Mass was presided by Archbishop Orani Joao Tempesta, Archbishop of St. Sebastian of Rio de Janeiro. The mass began with the arrival of the Cross along with the image of the Virgin of World Youth Day, which was carried by young people from the five continents.
The Mass began with prayers for the youth who are employed as well as for the souls of the youth who died in a nightclub fire in Brazil and for several children who died in the Candelaria Massacre of 1993. Prayers were also offered for the young female pilgrim from France who died in a tragic bus accident in French Guiana. The young woman was with a group from France on their way to Rio de Janeiro when a truck collided with the bus.
Although the Holy Father customarily is not present at the opening ceremony of World Youth Day, Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office confirmed that Pope Francis followed the event on TV and “was impressed by the level of participation in the event.”
The Holy Father will depart today for a Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida. Fr. Lombardi told journalists that due to inclement weather, the Holy Father will travel to shrine by airplane rather than by helicopter. The bad weather conditions also prevented Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, from commemorating a World Youth Day medal at the feet of the statue of Christ the Redeemer.
The director of the Holy See Press Office also confirmed that the Pope will meet with young pilgrims from his native Argentina at the Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro.
While the Holy Father celebrates Mass at Aparecida, Bishops from all five continents will begin a series of catechesis in the next 3 days focusing on various themes such as “thirst for hope, thirst for God”, “being a disciple of Christ”, and on “being a missionary: now go!”
The catechesis will be spread out in 300 locations from Copacabana beach to the favelas of Rio. “The majority of the sessions will be held in Portuguese (133), but there will also be 50 in Spanish, 25 in English, 15 in Italian and French, 8 in German and 5 in Polish. In total, the catechesis will be held in 20 different languages, including Arabic, Croatian, Danish, Slovenian, Greek, Czech and Russian,” a communique from the Holy See Press Office stated.