RIO DE JANEIRO — The World Youth Day cross and icon of the Virgin Mary arrived July 6 in Rio de Janeiro, where they will remain until the conclusion of the July 23-28 gathering of young people and Pope Francis.
Some 1,500 young people from the Diocese of Itaguai carried the two World Youth Day symbols in procession to Rio de Janeiro, where they were met at the Church of St. Joseph by the head of the World Youth Day organizational committee.
Archbishop Orani Tempesta presided at a special Mass, and, afterwards, the two symbols were taken to the Cathedral of St. Sebastian.
The two symbols “have crossed the world, and since September of 2011, they have traveled throughout Brazil, visiting not only the dioceses, but also schools, prisons, squares and indigenous communities,” Archbishop Tempesta said. “In this way, the message of Christ is reaching all the men and women of Brazil.”
As young people prayed and sang hymns, the 12-foot cross first entrusted to the youth by John Paul II in 1984 was placed in the cathedral of Rio de Janeiro.
The icon of the Virgin Mary, a replica of the Byzantine image of Maria, Salus Populi Romani (Mary, Protector of the Roman People), was also brought to the cathedral. It was donated to young people by John Paul II in 2003 to accompany the cross.
“This is a sign that shows the beauty of the Christian faith, the certainty of Christ risen on the cross, giving his life for us all, and at the same time the joy of young people, who in all these years have seen a little bit of their own lives, their dreams, their searching, their joy, in these symbols,” Archbishop Tempesta said.
The cross and the icon will be taken to various parts of Rio de Janeiro until the start of World Youth Day, when several million people are expected to gather in the Brazilian city.