Monday, July 22, 2013

Flying Down... Heading "Home"

...and carrying his own bag – a pilgrim like all the rest – he's off.

Having departed Rome at midmorning, the Pope arrives in Rio de Janiero at 4pm local time (3pm ET, 2100 Vatican). While the voyage to the latest edition of World Youth Day would've been significant under any circumstance given its place as global Catholicism's "Olympic event," thanks to the Conclave, the week's storyline has now become dominated by the triumphant homecoming of the first Latin American pontiff, who – like his predecessor at Cologne in 2005 – is making his first foreign trip to a long-planned WYD which just so happens to be on especially familiar and friendly turf.

Given the "Francis-mania" that's taken hold over these last months, the media contingent covering the trip is said to number some 5,000 – in other words, almost as many as were accredited for the transition in February and March. The even bigger swell, however, is in the projected crowd-size for Saturday's climactic vigil and Sunday's closing Mass – while a throng of some 1.5 million was initially expected to converge on the site dubbed Campus Fidei ("Faith Field"), the higher estimates now are running double that. In any event, with over 300,000 pilgrims registered and even more just showing up or joining in along the way, the first of three major global events coming to Rio over the next three years – a roster rounded out by next year's World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics – will be the largest.

While Papa Bergoglio has already made his imprint on the week by adding several events to his schedule – a first afternoon spin around the host-city just after his arrival, replacing a planned "rest day" tomorrow with a pilgrimage to Brazil's patronal shrine at Aparecida, followed by a stop to visit the sick at a hospital, and then (in what's likely to make for this trip's most resonant moment) a lengthy journey to one of the city's most volatile slums on Wednesday – at least one agita-inducing thing for the Vatican crowd (one which would've been all the more feared these days) was struck from the agenda as Francis decided not to hold the customary papal press conference aboard the Alitalia flight, opting instead to greet the media reps in coach one by one. And, of course, even if the bulletproof glass-encased Mercedes Popemobile already arrived in Rio last week, its use has been nixed by the pontiff in favor of the open jeep Francis has invariably taken to using in Rome, rain or shine.

More to come as the days ensue, both here and in the Page Three feed (located, as ever, just to your right). For now, the 150-page English edition of this WYD's official worship-aid might be worth leafing through in advance... and as this week yet again shines a spotlight on it at Francis' insistence, some could seemingly use a re-introduction to the 2007 Aparecida Charter of the Latin American bishops – a text whose drafting then-Cardinal Bergoglio oversaw, and one which, as Pope, he's placed on an equal footing of import with Vatican II.

And lastly, given all the attention (and even more confusion) it's made for of late, as these pages will be running livestreams and texts of the WYD events, those who aren't in Rio and follow things here "with the proper devotion" will be able to receive the plenary indulgence – one per day, through the 28th – attached to participation in these days via social media. As always, though, it can only be obtained under the usual conditions: that is, upon receiving the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist, and prayer for the intentions of the Pope, all within a week of said participation. All things to the contrary notwithstanding, however widely they've been circulated elsewhere.

All that said, away we go.