Rio de Janeiro will host the next World Youth Day, Pope Benedict XVI announced Sunday to hundreds of thousands of young Roman Catholic pilgrims at the close of this year's event in Madrid.
"I am pleased now to announce that the next World Youth Day will be held in 2013, in Rio de Janeiro," the Pope told the faithful assembled to celebrate Mass at a military airbase on Madrid's western outskirts. The crowds of young people from around the globe erupted in cheers at the announcement.
Rio will also host the Summer Olympics in 2016 and Brazil will host the World Cup in 2014. City officials who were in Madrid for Sunday's announcement said in a statement that they were eager to see the festivities come to their city.
"From an economic standpoint, it's amazing. ... The streets will be full, and the museums and sites," said Sergio Cabral, governor of Rio de Janeiro state.
Eduardo Paes, Rio de Janeiro's mayor, said the city -- with the massive Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking it -- will be the ideal host for the event.
"Upon arriving in Madrid, I was very impressed with the size of this fantastic meeting. ... On every corner, demonstrations of fellowship, harmony, ideas for building a better world. And there's no better environment than Rio, the city known to be blessed by God, to receive this event," he said. "Brazil is a country of continental dimensions, with a Catholic majority, and our city has unique scenery and welcoming people."
Benedict ended his four-day visit to Madrid on Sunday, with Spain's King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia escorting the Roman Catholic leader to the steps of his outbound jetliner. During the visit, thousands protested what they said was the high cost of organizing the event this year in Madrid during Spain's deep economic crisis, with nearly 21% unemployment and nearly 5 million people jobless.
The World Youth Day organization said it was spending about $70 million on the event, which is celebrated on a global scale every few years and which this year included activities that cut traffic in central Madrid on Thursday and Friday, before moving to the airbase over the weekend. Most of the money came from Catholic pilgrims and sponsors, the organization said, insisting that it would not cost taxpayers anything.
But critics said public funds would likely pay for the 10,000 police officers on duty, or the discounts on the Madrid metro for the visiting pilgrims at the same time that normal fares have gone up.
Madrid will see economic benefits as a result of the large number of visitors and the attention from international news media, Spain's chief government spokesman, Jose Blanco, told a news conference Friday.