Rio de Janeiro's Christ the Redeemer statue celebrates 90th birthday
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Rio de Janeiro's Christ the Redeemer statue celebrates 90th birthday
In this file photo taken on March 24, 2021 of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, during sunrise. October 12, 2021 marks the 90th anniversary of the unveiling of Rio´s iconic statue, the Christ the Redeemer. CARL DE SOUZA / AFP.

RIO DE JANEIRO.- The iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer that towers over Rio de Janeiro celebrated its 90th birthday on Tuesday, with a Mass, a new song and a Brazilian brandy label dedicated to it.

The religious ceremony was initially slated to take place at the foot of the giant statue, but because of bad weather it was performed at the Metropolitan Cathedral in central Rio.

"We Cariocas are used to looking to Christ who is often hidden in the clouds, but we know he is there," city archbishop Orani Tempesta said during the Mass, referring to Rio de Janeiro residents.

"We are still going through the pandemic, but with an optimistic outlook thanks to vaccination. The dark clouds of last year are dissipating," he added.

Brazil has the second worst death toll in the world from Covid-19, with over 600,000 people killed.

Before the outbreak, the 38-meter (125-foot) statue located at the top of Corcovado hill and known as one of the Seven Wonders of the modern world, attracted nearly two million visitors per year.

It was closed for several months last year due the pandemic and visitors must now present a vaccination certificate to access it.

Last month, Brazilian composer Moacyr Luz released a song, titled "Alma carioca, Cristo redentor" (Rio Soul, Christ the Redeemer), that he dedicated to the statue's anniversary.

Another gift was the launch of the Redeemer cachaca, a line of the famous Brazilian drink with the image of Christ on the bottle. The idea belongs to Omar Raposo, the charismatic priest in charge of the Sanctuary of Christ the Redeemer.

"It's a way of giving value to national products," Raposo told AFP.

In 1921, the Catholic Church sponsored a contest for the construction of a religious monument to mark the centenary of Brazil's independence from Portugal.

Brazilian engineer Heitor da Silva Costa and French sculptor Paul Landowski designed and built the statue that was inaugurated on October 12, 1931.

In 1973, it was declared a Historic Monument and in 2007 it was classified among the New Seven Wonders of the World.

© Agence France-Presse

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