London: Brazilian chaplains visit Olympic Park

Chaplains in front of Olympic Dome

Chaplains in front of Olympic Dome

London’s entire Brazilian chaplaincy team joined ranks with twelve other fellow ethnic chaplains recently for a special tour of the Olympic Park. The tour was coordinated to help envision cultural groups within the UK in their preparations to welcome the nations of the world during next year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games. Ethnic chaplains from across the five continents, along with Sr Petronia Williams, chaplain to the travelling communities, had an insider’s view of the transformational work happening in London’s East End.

Since the recent news announced by Pope Benedict XVI in Madrid that Rio de Janeiro will host the 27th World Youth Day in July 2013, the eyes of the Church now turn to Brazil to see how it will engage the message of the Gospel with contemporary cultural passions.   Rio de Janeiro has now been assigned with the world’s top three largest events to be rolled out within a period of three years: the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2016 – the world’s largest multiple sporting event, the Football World Cup in 2014 – the world’s largest single sporting event, and now World Youth Day in 2013 – generally known to be the world’s largest single gathering of young people and of Catholics outside of Rome.   All three events will involve a mixture of the globe’s top three passions: sport, music and the arts.

With the 2013 World Youth Day theme being ‘Go and make disciples of all nations’ (Matthew 28:19), the Brazilian people, joined by the many Brazilian communities across the globe, have the enviable task of finding relevant and inspirational ways of bringing the good news of Jesus Christ and tangible acts of service to the nations of the world as they visit their homeland.

James Parker, Catholic Coordinator for the 2012 Games, sees the many lessons that the UK can already teach Brazil in the lead up to these three global events: “No two global events bring together the eyes and passion of the world like the Football World Cup and the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games. Sport is the world’s number one passion and the vehicle for many people’s deepest spiritual experience.  The Holy Father’s decision, therefore, to select Rio de Janiero as 2013’s host city for World Youth Day with the theme of going and making disciples of all nations is strewn with wisdom.

“Preparing the communities of one nation to welcome over two hundred other nations is a daunting yet exciting task as the UK churches are discovering in the lead up to 2012.  As next year’s Games are the first time that the Catholic Church has engaged in any significant way with a large global sporting event, we will be passing on to the Church in Brazil the many lessons we have learnt so that they might offer, and witness to, Christ’s generous love in an  even greater way than we can achieve.  What is providential for the Brazilians is that they will get three stabs at reaching out to the nations of the world with events in 2013, 2014 and 2016.”

Fr Vanderley Alves de Oliveira, speaking on behalf of the Brazilian Catholic Chaplaincy of London, said: “We see peace as a basic element of these future events, since they can be proof that international cooperation is not only possible, but inspiring, when countries come together in pursuit of human excellence.   

“The 2016 Games in Rio, a city known for its statue of Christ the King, must symbolise the peace of the world. Aware of the original peaceful aim of the Ancient Greek Olympics, and of the great efforts by churches in London at this time, we are keen to ensure that peace will be a dominant theme of the World Youth Day, of The Football World Cup and of Rio’s Olympic and Paralympic Games.”  

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