Rio’s Christ Statue Asking for Alms Amid Recession

  • Rio’s archdiocese launched fundraising campaign for landmark
  • City and nation are mired in recession with record joblessness

It’s survived decades of wind, rain and lightning strikes, but now Brazil’s iconic Christ the Redeemer statue is suffering from the same elemental problem as the rest of the country: a lack of cash.

On Thursday the archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro launched the ‘Friends of the Christ the Redeemer’ fundraising campaign to preserve the landmark, which draws millions of tourists per year to the top of Corcovado mountain. The 13-story statue that looms over the city isn’t only a symbol of Rio, but of Brazil. Both are suffering with a deep recession that has drained government coffers.

Christ the Redeemer statue under maintenance in 2012.

Source: Friends of Christ the Redeemer

“Up until today we’ve counted on the church’s own resources and those of the private sector for maintenance,” Omar Raposo, the priest in charge of the Sanctuary of Christ the Redeemer, told local TV station Globo. “But with this big crisis in which we find ourselves today, we have great concern and need all of society to collaborate."

Head of the statue while under maintenance in 2012.

Source: Friends of Christ the Redeemer

Maintenance costs have risen and the economic crisis means the church cannot demand more from its sponsors, which include Mastercard, Samsung, Hyundai and Pirelli, according to Father Marcos William, who is in charge of the archdiocese’s communications. The sanctuary spends nearly 3 million reais ($889,000) annually to maintain the concrete Art-Deco statue, which is often hit by lightning during tropical storms, and another 2 million reais between payroll and social and cultural projects.

The arm under maintenance in 2012.

Source: Friends of Christ the Redeemer

Christ the Redeemer was built with donations collected in the 1920s, and construction cost the equivalent of 9.5 million reais in today’s terms, according to its website. The church doesn’t receive admission fees, which instead are split between transport concessionaires and the environment ministry’s ICMBio biodiversity institute, William said by phone.

“It’s much more than a statue,’’ William said. “We have to maintain it, beautiful and perfect. It’s the postcard of Brazil to the entire world.’’

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