Alice Christofi, a young adult from St Mark's Florence, represented the Diocese in Europe at the recent World Youth Day encounter in Rio de Janeiro. Although a Roman Catholic event our Anglican diocese of Rio de Janeiro hosted a gathering of young Anglicans from around the world at that time, as an ecumenical presence. The priest at Cristo Rei parish in the Cidade de Deus neighbourhood in Rio, Fr Nicholas Wheeler, (seen in these pictures) was a key local organiser.
Alice has written to me with initial impressions of her experience and to thank the Diocese for supporting her presence in Rio. She is already planning to gather folk for the next World Youth Day encounter in Krakow in 2016!
Here is an extract from Alice's letter to me:
Dear Bishop David,
I just wanted to write and thank you for the incredible opportunity to take part in the recent World Youth Day encounter in Rio de Janeiro. It has been a fantastic 10 days spent with a really wonderful group of people: in the end we were 8 visitors, with representatives from the UK, USA, Canada, South Africa, Australia, Brazil and, of course, Europe, plus the many young people from the parishes in Rio. We were welcomed with great warmth by the Brazilians, particularly by Daniel Cabral who welcomed us into his home and his parish, and of course by Fr Nicholas.
Taking part in the WYD events with some 3.5 million young people was an unforgettable experience, from the excitement, singing and dancing during the open air masses, through the drama of Stations of the Cross, and the deep silence during the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Throughout the week there was a really tangible spirit of joy on the beach, and indeed throughout the city as crowds of pilgrims waited to catch a glimpse of the Pope driving past! Being part of such a gathering has left us all, I think, reinvigorated and inspired in our faith, and deeply hopeful in the future of the church.
The time we spent together as a group was also very fruitful, and I particularly enjoyed our discussions of what it means to be a young Anglican and the challenges facing young Anglicans today. The time spent with the parishes and communities out there has given me a much broader sense of what it is to be an Anglican beyond my own experiences in the Church of England and the Diocese in Europe. Another important element of the time spent was the opportunity to engage with social projects and mission work taking place in the city, such as work with the homeless, celebrations of the Eucharist on the streets for those turned away from regular church services, and an art therapy group for victims of domestic violence. In particular, our day spent in the City of God was eye-opening, and in many ways very challenging. For many of the group, it was the first time we'd been exposed to poverty like this. Seeing the situation there, and also the significant work that the church is doing to refresh this community gave us much to think about together, and I think we've all returned to our respective churches and dioceses more aware of the work that needs to be done, and of this important element of service.
All in all, I've come away inspired, challenged and touched by what I've seen in the last weeks, and by the people I've met. There has been an awful lot to reflect on and to bring back with us. This encounter has left me with a great feeling of hope in the church that we are building, and a greater understanding of and readiness to respond to the call to "go make disciples". Sharing this journey with the other young people from around the Communion has been very special, and parting ways (at least for now) at the end of the week proved very difficult.
Thank you again, for all that you and the Diocesan team have done to make this experience possible, it was truly a privilege to be able to represent the Diocese in Europe. I'm already trying to persuade friends to come with me to Krakow 2016! I hope there will be many more young people who will be able to take part in such an experience!
With prayers and best wishes,