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Rio’s iconic Christ the Redeemer statue to get a facelift

Cardinal Orani João Tempesta, archbishop of Rio de Janiero, launches the "Friends of Christ the Redeemer" campaign on Dec. 13, 2016, to raise funds to restore the famous statue. Photo courtesy of Raphael Freire Portal ArqRio

RIO DE JANEIRO (RNS) The Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro has launched an international appeal for donations to help restore Christ the Redeemer, Brazil’s most famous statue, considered one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.

“Christ the Redeemer, with its open arms, is the greatest showcase for Rio and Brazil,” said Cardinal Orani João Tempesta, the archbishop of Rio, at the launch of the “Friends of Christ the Redeemer” campaign earlier this month.

“If you think of Paris, you think of the Eiffel Tower. If you go to New York, you visit the Statue of Liberty.”

The initiative, he added, was a way of “continuing to spread the Christian faith.”

But the iconic attraction suffers from numerous cracks due to lightning strikes, said the Rev. Omar Raposo, dean in charge of the upkeep of the monument.

“For the past 85 years the monument has been maintained with the help of private donations and the Catholic Church’s own resources,” Raposo said. “But unfortunately, with the economic crisis in Brazil, we need to appeal for more contributions to make ends meet.”

The administrators of the Christ the Redeemer site, Chico Mendes Institute, is responsible for the infrastructure surrounding the Christ the Redeemer statue. Photo courtesy of Robson Coelho via Foco News Agency

The administrators of the Christ the Redeemer site, Chico Mendes Institute, is responsible for the infrastructure surrounding the Christ the Redeemer statue. Photo courtesy of Robson Coelho via Foco News Agency

The statue was completed in the Tijuca National Park in 1931. It receives more than 3 million visitors a year.

However, the sanctuary where the 98-foot-tall image is located, doesn’t receive an income from the park’s ticket office.

“Even though it’s the main draw in the park and the most visited monument in the country, we don’t get a (cent) from ticket sales,” Raposo said.

The priest said the money raised would help maintain the statue and pay the 30 employees who work in the sanctuary. The annual cost of managing the site is about $1.5 million.

According to Cristina Ventura, the architect responsible for the restoration, emergency work needs to be undertaken soon to avoid the risk of irreversible damage that includes the threat of losing parts of the original structure to decay and corrosion.

“Moisture is seeping in through cracks in the soapstone that lines the Christ and building up inside leaving it damp and causing rust,” she warned.

In addition, researchers said the “crown” of the Christ, which also acts as a lightning rod, is no longer enough to protect the monument. The structure receives an average of six strikes a year and needs several new high-tech conductors.

Administrators of the park, the Chico Mendes Institute, acknowledged the shortfall in funds and said it is in discussions with the archdiocese to set up a new agreement that could include helping the sanctuary financially.

In 1923 and 1929 the Catholic Church held two campaigns to raise funds to launch the Christ the Redeemer project.

“Just as it was built with the help of the people,” said Raposo, “we want it to be maintained with the help of the people.”

(Janet Tappin Coelho is an RNS correspondent based in Rio de Janeiro)

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Janet Tappin Coelho

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  • Naturally, among self absorbed Americans, the condition of the statue is not worthy of comment. But, as pointed out, the statute is an icon and deserves preservation for both cultural and aesthetic reasons.

  • Did you have a bowl of bile for breakfast? We can all point to horrid practices going on at every point of the globe, and such practices are not going to end as long as humanity reigns on this planet. Nor can every ill be conquered by the power of money. Hearts and minds have to be changed from within and that is a basic precept of what Jesus taught, however imperfectly applied by His devotees, but it’s worth the effort. Perhaps you would argue that we let the Statue of Liberty decay because the cost to maintain it would be better spent elsewhere to more beneficial and practical ends.

  • Corn flakes. But one of the chief sins of dominant religious groups in the developing world is diverting money for ostentatious displays while destitution is rife.

    One thing which can be cured with money are the problems caused by lack of money.

    If you are going to get all high and mighty here, ask yourself this question:

    If Jesus had a couple of million dollars in his hands would he use that money for:
    A) helping the poor and starving
    B) to add more gold trim on the temple

  • I don’t need to answer that one for you, you know the answer. But let me frame it another way. Jesus, if He were here now, wouldn’t need money, He could multiply existing resources as needed, demonstrated in the feeding of the 5000. But we His people are obligated to expend our resources on behalf of the very people you cite. Most Christians are quite generous with their gifts to the needy. Granted, some utilize monetary resources in ways that I would call into question, as a former church treasurer I have a peculiar insight to that, but seizing upon the statue in Rio is hardly to the point when indexed to my question to you about the Statue of Liberty which you did not address in your reply.

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