In the state of Rio Grande, construction work on the statue of Christ the Protector is entering its final phase. By the end of the year, the monumental statue will rise to thirty-seven meters (121.5 ft.) in height, symbolizing the sovereignty of Christ over all creatures.
It all started with a vow. A man condemned by a life-threatening illness promised to build a statue of Christ as a votive offering if given a few more months on this earth.
The prayer was answered, and the vow would be fulfilled, thanks to the efforts of Fr. Joao Granzotto, former pastor of the parish of Sao-Pedro de Encantado, in the state of Rio Grande.
In 2017, the priest - who died in 2020 - managed to get the new mayor of Encantado excited about the project. An association responsible for collecting donations was then created, and, in the process, generous donors bequeathed land situated on the highest hill in the region.
But, in March 2020, the Covid-19 epidemic was playing havoc: the association - managed by Catholics - ceased its activity and began to collect funds to help the city hospital, overwhelmed by the influx of patients.
A few months later, the project resumed: “the bank granted us a loan of 230,000 €, for a total cost estimated at just over three hundred thousand euros,” explains Rafael Fontana, one of the coordinators of the association which wishes to clarify that “not a single bit of public money has been spent.”
The statue, which will take the name of Christ-Protector, should be completed at the end of 2021: it will then rise to nearly 37 meters (121.5 ft.) in height, a few meters more than the Christ-Redeemer of Rio-de-Janeiro.
Rafael Fontana estimates that Christ-Protector will bring 5,000 visitors a week, so investments are increasing: there is already talk of a hotel that should break ground soon.
For Andrew Chesnut, professor of religious studies at the University of Virginia in the United States, and a specialist on Brazil, the project is part of the desire to imprint the mark of a Church in decline: “It is a visible response to the sudden drop in the number of Catholics over the past five decades,” explains the researcher, who recalls that “since 2018, Brazil has ceased to be a predominantly Catholic country. Most of the people who left the Church joined Pentecostalism.”
“The monumental statues of Christ reinforce the symbolic element of Christ’s sovereignty over the world,” said Francisco Borba Ribeiro Neto, director of the Center for Faith and Culture at the Pontifical Catholic University of Sao Paulo.
According to him, Christ-Protector fits more broadly within the framework of the “current political-religious conflict in Bolsonaro’s Brazil” where the polarization between Christian values and progressive ideology remains sharp.