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Church holds out begging bowl for Rio’s Christ the Redeemer statue

The crisis has hit the iconic sculpture, but some are surprised the monument requires financial help

María Martín

The crisis gripping Rio de Janeiro, where government employees are threatening to stop working if they continue to get paid late, is now affecting one of the new seven wonders of the world. The Archdiocese of Rio, which is in charge of the world-famous Christ the Redeemer statue, is asking for help.

Workers making repairs on Christ the Redeemer.
Workers making repairs on Christ the Redeemer.Ricardo moraes (REUTERS)
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El Cristo Redentor de Río de Janeiro pasa el cepillo

Saying they have no money for the upkeep of the 30-meter tall sculpture – a task that requires five million reales (€1.4 million) a year – religious officials are asking the faithful (and others as well) to make donations.

The monument, completed in 1931, is a magnet for lightning on stormy days, and requires constant repairs as well as a new lightning protection system.

But the economic crisis means previous forms of financing have dried up. Businesses that normally help with the upkeep of one of the most famous statues in the world are now considering the wisdom of further investment, the Catholic Church is unable to find new partners, and “donations have dropped considerably,” in the words of Father Marcos Williams, the archdiocese’s spokesman, in statements to O Globo.

The Church says it does not see a penny of the entrance fee revenues

However, the call for donations has raised some eyebrows. Entrance to the monument is not cheap at 68 reales (€19) on weekends and during the entire high season. An average of three million visitors pay their fee each year.

Part of the money goes directly to federal coffers, as it is the central government that manages Tijuca National Park. Another portion of the revenue goes to pay the transportation company that holds the concession to take tourists to and from the site, located 710 meters above sea level.

The archdiocese says that it does not see a penny of this income.

It is not the first time that the administrators of the Christ the Redeemer statue have resorted to charity. For the last 85 years, it has been living off corporate sponsors, donations by the faithful, and funds raised through hosting weddings, christenings and First Communions inside the chapel located at the base of the statue.

As a matter of fact, construction itself would not have been possible without all the popular support that flowed in during the donation drives of 1923 and 1929.

English version by Susana Urra.

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