RIO DE JANEIRO – Pope Francis presided over one of the most solemn rites of the Catholic Church on Friday, a procession re-enacting Christ’s crucifixion that received a Broadway-like treatment befitting its improbable location, Rio’s hedonistic Copacabana beach.
Copacabana, which hosts Carnival and Rolling Stones concerts when bikini-clad beauties aren’t sunbathing on its white sands, lived up to its reputation by staging a wildly theatrical, and very Latin telling of the Way of the Cross, complete with huge stage sets, complex lighting, a full orchestra and a cast of hundreds acting out a modern version of the biblical story.
The procession is one of the mainstay events of World Youth Day, designed to remind young Catholics about the root of their faith that Christ died to forgive their sins.
Jesus is united with so many young people who have lost faith in political institutions, because they see in them only selfishness and corruption, Francis said in a reference to the violent protests that broke out in Brazil last month against rampant corruption and inefficiencies in the government.
Later, Francis met privately with a few juvenile detainees, a priority ever since his days as archbishop of Buenos Aires and an expression of his belief that the church must reach out to the most marginalized and forgotten of society.
Francis also had lunch with a dozen World Youth Day volunteers from around the globe, bringing them to tears when he asked them a simple rhetorical question on which to reflect: Why were they here having lunch with the pope while others were hungry in the slums?