By Lise Alves
SAO PAULO (CNS) — As hundreds of thousands of young Catholic pilgrims descend on Brazil, World Youth Day coordinators in Rio de Janeiro are putting the finishing touches on preparations for up to 2.5 million people.
By July 15, more than 320,000 people had registered for the event. Media coordinator Carol Castro said many pilgrims will register when they arrive, and many will participate in the events without being registered.
The countries with the greatest numbers of pilgrims registered are Brazil, Argentina and the United States, but young people are coming from as far away as the Philippines and Slovakia.
More than 8,400 priests from all over the globe requested credentials for the event. Approximately 5,500 journalists have been given credentials to cover Pope Francis’ first international trip.
Castro said 55 percent of registered pilgrims are women and 60 percent of those coming are ages 19-34. About 300,000 beds were made available in family homes, sports centers and schools in Rio.
Officials said more than 270 locations are available for catechetical session in 26 languages, including Polish, Latvian, Mandarin and Flemish.
They said 60,000 volunteers, of whom 7,000 are foreigners, will be on hand during the week to help and direct pilgrims to the events in Rio. Nearly 800 singers, dancers, actors and musicians will be participating in the main events.
Catholic officials will have 4 million hosts for consecration, and 100 confessionals will be at hand for pilgrims.
Pope Francis will greet pilgrims on a stage overlooking Copacabana beach July 25. For those unable to get to the main stage, organizers have set up two large and 16 smaller screens and 26 sound towers.
The July 27 vigil will be outside the city at a site equal to approximately 150 soccer fields. The venue has been dubbed Campus Fidei, Latin for Field of Faith. This is also the site for Pope Francis’ July 28 Mass with young people, who can watch on 33 large outdoor screens if they cannot see the altar.
To make things more comfortable for pilgrims spending the night, the area will have 4,673 portable bathrooms, 270 of which were adapted for people with disabilities.
More than 12 million liters of water will be at hand for pilgrims, distributed in 177 locations throughout the area.
The Brazilian armed forces has been put in charge of guaranteeing the security of pilgrims at Campus Fidei. The army will have 1,500 people stationed inside Campus Fidei while the national security force will have 1,300 people patrolling both inside and outside the vigil area.
For the entire event, security for pilgrims will count on more than 10,200 military units. The number of members of the armed forces to be used to guarantee security for pilgrims was increased from 8,500 after the recent socio-political protests in several cities in Brazil. Pope Francis will be guarded by 600 military personnel as well as 80 people from Brazil’s federal police and Vatican police who accompany Pope Francis on his visit.
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