Rio de Janeiro Safety and Security Statement, 3 July, 2013.
In recent weeks grassroots protests have taken place in Brazil.
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) would like to reassure leaders, pilgrims and their families that the safety and well-being of pilgrims is our first priority.
The World Youth Day (WYD) Office in Rio reports that, contrary to some media reports, the protests have mostly been peaceful and some actions by small groups of activists are not supported by the majority of the protesters.
The protests seem to have since died down and the Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro, Most Rev. Orani João Tempesta O.Cist., has expressed his confidence that the protests will not impact upon the celebration of WYD, which he says is “held in high esteem by all”.
Archbishop Tempesta said that WYD shares with the demonstrators a desire to build a better society.
“Catholic youth also have these same hopes and dreams, and they keep Christ in their hearts,” he said. (See http://www.rio2013.com/ en/news/details/2457/pilgrim-s-safety-in-the-spotlight)
The Australian Bishops’ Commission for Pastoral Life (BCPL) has been in liaison with the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) since October 2012.
The Australian Embassy in Brasilia has assigned three staff to Rio for the week of WYD to support the presence of so many Australians.
These DFAT staff will be staying at the same hotel as the Australian Bishops and the BCPL team, just 600 metres from Pier Maua where over 1,200 Australian pilgrims will be staying in simple accommodation.
On 22 June, DFAT updated the travel advice to Brazil on their Smart Traveller website. The updated travel advice remains at “Exercise a high degree of caution” as it has been for a number of years.
The update included the following statement:
“In June 2013, there have been protests in many cities throughout Brazil… The demonstrations, which have coincided with Brazil’s hosting of the FIFA Confederations Cup, can turn violent with little or no warning. We recommend Australians avoid all demonstrations and protests and monitor local media for information about expected demonstrations.”
The BCPL highly recommend that Pilgrimage Leaders subscribe to all travel updates relevant to their itinerary, reviewing the advice prior to departure and regularly while out of the country.
The BCPL will be receiving updates from the Australian embassy staff, together with regular updates from the WYD Office in Rio, a private security firm, local travel and church colleagues. The BCPL will provide any safety and security information directly to pilgrimage coordinators in Rio, and pass on information to pilgrims required.
In the lead up to WYD the BCPL has also worked collaboratively with Harvest Pilgrimages and group coordinators to prepare appropriately for the pilgrimage to Rio.
This has included the opportunity for coordinators to visit Rio in 2012 to become familiar with the city and event locations, sharing of policy and procedural documentation for comprehensive planning, attendance at international briefing meetings, provision of national briefing days for coordinators, and most recently a three day visit to Rio to be informed of any last minute plans and arrangements.
WYD will be a powerful and life-changing experience for many of the 1,800 young Australian pilgrims attending. The presence of Pope Francis, who has challenged us to “walk the talk” and “go out to those at the margins”, will be felt by everyone – young and not-so-young Catholics, people of other faiths and those who have not yet experienced the love God has for all.
As at all previous WYDs we can expect that the presence of the Holy Father and the young people of the world will lead to a wave of idealism and joy washing across the city of Rio and a dramatic decline in crime and other trouble-making as a result.
During WYD the BCPL will be release media updates, statements and stories through the ACBC Media Blog, along with Facebook and Twitter.
ACBC Media Blog: mediablog.catholic.org.au
Twitter: @ACBCyouthmin #aussiepilgrims
Other avenues for news and stories about WYD can be found on local diocesan websites or through XT3 (www.xt3.com), who will be providing a live webcast of events across the week of WYD.