Uniform? – Check. Sunglasses? – Check. Knife? – Check. Ok, ready for take-off to Brazil for the 28th World Youth Day.
No sooner said than done! My airplane took off to the other end of the world on July 15th. My first stop was on top of the Corcovado, best known to all globetrotters because of the gigantic statue of Jesus Christ the Redeemer. It seems like he is willing to hug the whole world and each one of us. After this powerful impression my journey continued 500 km north into the state of Espirito Santo.
The travel guides and nature documentaries on TV can tell you about the nature, the driving skills of the Brazilians – in cars that you cannot buy in our part of the world – and about strange plants, animals and fruit. But these media cannot tell you anything about the way people live and believe in God. You have to experience it yourself.
I was welcomed not only with open arms but especially with open hearts. I spent my days in the diocese of Villa Velha close to the coast. Together with a German group of pilgrims and the youth of the local parish we lived an exciting time. We were not just able to enjoy the sun, the beach and the good mood but also to get to know how Brazilian life really is. Our hosts showed us slums and hopes of people who are disturbed by corruption etc.
500 years ago the Brazilians became Christians. The young Church lives!! Three packed Church services a day is not uncommon. The liturgy is full of music and animation. However, after the Sanctus an incredible silence comes down on you. Guitars and loudspeakers remain silent. No one cares if you are wearing the latest trousers or if you are already more than 90 years old. You kneel down. Then everyone is focused on the real essential: on HIM.
The odds and ends are the things that fascinated me: The short and silent prayer before every car ride, the little something among each other, the thumbs up and the continuous smile. Even if Germany lost the soccer game against Brazil at the sports night, friendships emerged from this night.
The people are poor but much wealthier than we are in Europe. Their warmth was overwhelming and even if I have already had to say goodbye to thousands of people in my life as rover, it has never been so hard as in Brazil.
We came back to Rio de Janeiro by coach! Rio is impressing for tourists not only thanks to its two huge cathedrals but also to the long and famous beaches. Nevertheless, it was really hard to see the fine sand this time, because more than 3.2 million adolescents followed the invitation of Pope Francis to Copacabana beach. A unique picture: streets blocked with young believers cheering for the Holy Father. Even critics got silent. No matter where you came from or which language you spoke: united in our faith, the Brazilian days were fireworks of warmth, evidence of faith, joy of believing, and of good turns. The rainfalls, which we almost never think of while hearing the name of Brazil, could not stop this atmosphere. Thanks to my UIGSE backstage pass, I could be nearby Pope Francis when he celebrated the solemn Vigil and the closing Mass with the youth of the world!
Maybe you have heard the emotional words of his homily on Copacabana Beach which fit perfectly for rangers and rovers: “Go – without fear – to serve!”
That is why we can eagerly anticipate the World Youth Day in Krakow in 2016 to tell everyone about the fruit of our mission. The Pope’s message is not just for those lucky people having been in Rio, but for every adolescent and for you, too: “Go and make disciples of all peoples!“
Yours in Scouting,