At Rio's Christ the Redeemer statue, cardinal blesses Olympic torch

IMAGE: CNS photo/Lise Alves

By Lise Alves

JANEIRO (CNS) — High above the city, beneath the statue of Christ the Redeemer,
Rio Cardinal Orani Tempesta blessed the Olympic torch, held by Brazil’s former
Olympic volleyball player, Maria Isabel Barroso Salgado.

is the moment for us to surpass our difficulties and work together as a team,
making our country and our world safer, less unequal, and putting love in the
hearts of all,” the cardinal told reporters.

there, the Olympic torch was carried on the last leg of its 95-day Brazilian
journey toward Maracana Stadium, where the opening ceremony was to be held the
evening of Aug. 5.

Omar Raposo, rector at the Christ the Redeemer Sanctuary, located at the base
of the statue, said the blessing was not scheduled by the Games’ organizers,
but was requested by Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes, a Catholic.

Raposo said having the torch lit at the statue “has a lot of spiritual
meaning” in the predominantly Catholic country.

Christ, with his open arms, welcomes and protects all the peoples of the world,
but Brazilians hope that the luck transmitted by the statue will remain with
our Brazilian athletes,” said a smiling Father Raposo.

statue, one of Rio de Janeiro’s most famous landmarks, has been a required stop
for most tourists visiting the city, a fact that has not gone unnoticed by
Olympic organizers and city officials. Due to concerns of possible terrorist
attacks during the Olympics and Paralympics, officials have stepped up security
on popular landmarks, like the statue. Metal detectors are expected to be in
place, and at least 30 armed forces personnel will be guarding the statue 24 hours
a day until the end of September.

Brazilian armed forces will be in charge of securing landmarks, airports and
competition venues,” said a spokesman for Brazil’s army. Officials said
more than 85,000 security personnel will be in place during the Games,
including army, air force, marines, military police, as well as state and
municipal police.

Raposo welcomed the extra security.

sanctuary is the gateway for visitors coming to Rio. This is an opportunity to
make sure tourists see the Christ (statue) in a safe environment,” he said.

He said
the sanctuary estimates it will receive up to 10,000 visitors per day during
the Olympics and Paralympics, almost double the normal number during holidays.
Tickets for the tram are almost sold out for the entire period of the Games.

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