Yesterday at the Vatican, Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J., director of the Holy See Press Office held a press conference on Pope Francis' imminent apostolic visit to Rio de Janeiro for the 28th World Youth Day. Fr. Lombardi reviewed the Holy Father's programme for the week he will spend in Brazil, explaining that this journey is “particularly significant in his continent, and this naturally lends it a particular sense of anticipation and participation.”
“As we know,” Fr. Lombardi continued, “it was not his decision to make his first trip to Latin America, but rather it was his predecessor Benedict XVI who had confirmed that World Youth Day would be held in Brazil, and had confirmed that 'the Pope' would be present, as at all the World Youth Days, even though the Pope in this case would not have been him. Therefore, Pope Francis is assuming the legacy of Pope Benedict XVI's pontificate in making this trip. You will recall that practically the same thing happened at the last change of pontificate: Benedict XVI's first trip was to Germany, his homeland, to Cologne for the World Youth Day decided by his predecessor John Paul II.”
“The trip had already been decided but the programme has also been adapted, we might indeed say intensified and enriched with further events with the change of pontificate. The plan that had been drawn up for Pope Benedict XVI was less demanding, whereas with Pope Francis, some elements have been added, such as the pilgrimage to Aparecida, or the vist to the favelas, to the hospital, the meeting with the Comite de Celam. There are elements which were not scheduled in the first programme for the trip, intended for Pope Benedict XVI. Pope Francis has maintained the same days – that is, the trip was expected to take place from 22 to 29 July even before the change of pontificate – but more events have been planned for this period, especially the pilgrimage to Aparecida which will occupy a day that had in the previous draft programme been intended as a day of rest.”
“Of course, the Holy Father was invited by the bishops who organised and promoted the World Youth Day,” added Fr. Lombardi: “Orani Tempesti, archbishop of Rio de Janeiro, and Cardinal Damasceno Assis, president of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil, and naturally also by the president Dilma Rousseff,” who came to the Vatican “for the inauguration of the pontificate and who met Francesco the following day, explicitly inviting him to Brazil. The Pope confirmed immediately, just a few days after his election, that he intended to travel to Brazil for World Youth Day, and this helped to speed up preparations.”
I arrived in Brazil on Tuesday morning along with the Salt and Light film crew. We began our work yesterday filming several places in and around Rio de Janeiro, in particular the famous statue of Christ the Redeemer overlooking the city, the Pope's residence at Sumaré on the outskirts of Rio, and the Cathedral of St. Sebastian. Footage of these venues can be found on the Salt and Light website.
Next week, I will be joining Fr. Lombardi at the daily Vatican press briefings in Rio, in order to provide English translation.
Much more to come! Stay tuned.