Rio de Janeiro temple called a ‘beacon for life’ as Brazil prepares for religious freedom symposium
Rio tourism secretary: ‘It’s obviously important for us to have a temple, an important, sacred place for another religion here in the city. It helps us create our image of a very cosmopolitan, diverse and democratic open society and open city.’
RIO DE JANEIRO — Three hours after a Latter-day Saint apostle will give a Catholic cardinal a tour of the new Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple Wednesday afternoon, they will appear together on the opening panel of the first Brazilian symposium on religious freedom.
The symposium’s original dates were rescheduled to coincide with the temple open house so participants could take tours before it begins its sacred operations and closes to the public.
“I was invited to be part of the symposium and give my message to all these great religious leaders and then host them in the temple to see in what we believe,” said Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“All these religious leaders have the opportunity to see a very sacred place for us where we worship the Lord, where we receive the ordinances and make covenants,” he said.
The first panelist hosted by Elder Soares, a native Brazilian, will be Cardinal Orani Tempesta, the Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro.
He and other Latter-day Saint leaders will take symposium participants through the temple for the next two days.
“They can join us in the same feeling of respect and love for the ordinances of this gospel,” Elder Soares said. “Then we are going to talk about religious freedom. We’re going to share our blessings of beliefs that we can share and live in peace, especially in a place which is very sacred to us. Every religion or every religious entity, they have their ways to show worship to the Lord in the way they act and the way they live.
“For us the temple is a beacon for life. It’s a beacon for our own life that blesses us with promises that we receive in faith through the ordinances.”
The first person to tour the temple with Elder Soares on Tuesday said it helped him learn much more about Latter-day Saint practices and beliefs.
“I was very interested about the baptism in honor of the people that came before you in our family,” said Bruno Kazuhiro, secretary of tourism for the city of Rio. “I think it’s very interesting, because I was always curious concerning Christianity about what happens to people that didn’t have the chance to baptize and that never heard about Christianity.
“What happens to these people? Some religions say, ‘Well, if you’re not baptized, what can we do?’ It’s very interesting to see that this church has this philosophy, this doctrine that you can offer the opportunity to the people from your family that came before you to be baptized through you. I didn’t know about that, and for me, it was a learning experience. I will never forget this specific point that I learned today.”
Elder Soares said his address during the panel discussion on Wednesday evening provides an opportunity to share more and work with other religious leaders to promote peace.
“I feel grateful for this opportunity, because I’ll have the opportunity to testify through religious freedom principles about the truth that I believe and that I’ve been called to testify,” he said.
Elder Soares and the Church of Jesus Christ’s Brazil Area Presidency are hosting journalists and guests at the Rio de Janeiro temple this week before a six-week public open house begins on Saturday.
On Tuesday, they hosted tours for high-ranking officials in the government of the state of Rio de Janeiro, the city of Rio’s tourism secretary, important television and radio journalists and others.
The well-known host of a weekly religious program on a state-operated TV network in Rio filmed a lengthy interview with Elder Joni L. Koch of the Brazil Area Presidency and Sister Liliane Koch for a 30-minute segment that will air during the public open house.
The host, Luzia Lacerda, a devout Catholic, also will participate in the religious liberty symposium, which runs through Friday.
Elder Soares will appear on a panel with Cardinal Tempesta, who has been the Archbishop of Rio for 13 years. Pope Francis made him a cardinal eight years ago.
The other two panelists also are major religious figures in Brazil:
- The president of the South American division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Brazil, Stanley Arco.
- Mohammed Al Bukai, a sheikh and imam who is the director of affairs of the National Union of Islamic Entities in Brazil.
“I feel very grateful, very humble and at the same time very proud to have the opportunity to meet good people who are promoting faith, who are promoting peace, who are promoting unity,” Elder Soares said. “That’s an amazing thing. We are working all together for the same purpose.”
Rio de Janeiro (literally River of January, named for a grand bay the original Portuguese explorers saw when they arrived), is a world-famous tourist destination, attracting 5 to 6 million tourists per year before the pandemic. More than 2 million were international tourists.
Kazuhiro, Rio’s tourism secretary, said the new Latter-day Saint temple adds to the city’s reputation as a melting pot.
“It’s helpful for the city,” he said. “It’s a very diverse city. We have a lot of different religions. It’s obviously important for us to have a temple, an important, sacred place for another religion here in the city. It helps us create our image of a very cosmopolitan, diverse and democratic open society and open city.”
He said the Rio temple will be a destination for two main groups.
“The first one is religious tourism, people who like to visit cathedrals, churches, temples,” Kazuhiro said. “People that want to see different religions, when they come to the city, probably, they will go now not only to the city center and to the South Zone where you have the most beautiful places, but probably this temple will be a new item for people that have this interest in religions. Probably they’ll want to get to know it, to take a picture, something like that.”
The second group is the church’s own members, he said. Latter-day Saints will come not only from Rio de Janeiro, whose residents are known as Cariocas, but from cities and states around Rio.
“Before, people from the church in Rio had to go to São Paulo or to Campinas to have these most important, most sacred ceremonies in their religion,” Kazuhiro said. “Now they have the opportunity of doing this in Rio. For our Cariocas in the church, it’s very important. It’s an option closer to their homes to have these different and more sacred ceremonies the church offers. And I didn’t know about that before today.”
The tourism secretary said the temple is a good fit for Barra da Tijuca, western Rio’s modern neighborhood.
“It is a neighborhood of the city that is growing economically,” he said. “It makes sense for the church to bet on the Barra da Tijuca to be the place where the temple is, so I think it’s a good fit for for the city. It’s the place where the city is growing.”
Lacerda’s interview with Elder and Sister Koch will air on her show, “Expo Religion,” on TV Alerj. She is a devout Catholic.
“Her main interest was to understand what we are doing here with the temple,” Elder Koch said. “She used the Catholic Church for comparison, so she talked about the Eucharist and had us talk about the sacrament. She talked Catholic priests and had us describe our lay clergy and the temple and the Word of Wisdom.”
She also covered a wide range of other topics, including the church’s Easter traditions, teaching and retention of young people, the church’s missionary and family history work, and why the Angel Moroni on top of the temple faces east (because the Bible teaches Jesus Christ will return from the East), Sister Koch said.
“She also asked about the role of Jesus Christ in the church, so we explained the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the importance of the name of Christ in the church’s name,” Sister Koch said.
Lacerda told the Kochs she will put a link for free tickets to the Rio temple open house in her newspaper column. During the filming, Elder Koch invited people to come and see the Rio temple.
The open house will run through April 30. Kazuhiro said it will help some understand a faith that now has 15 stakes (regional groupings of 5 to 12 congregations) in the state of Rio and 45,000 church members who in the temple district.
“It was very important for me to visit the temple to not only see the architecture and how it is obviously a beautiful place, but also it was useful to understand how the religion works and which ceremonies the temple has,” he said.
Elder Soares said the combination of the open house and the symposium will benefit the dual participants.
“It is a great opportunity for them to know more about the gospel of Jesus Christ and what we believe, but on the other hand, it’s a great opportunity for me to rejoice with them as we go together in this journey,” Elder Soares said. “I think there are many things we have in common, and we respect each other. We hope that we can go together to promote a better society.”
The Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple will be dedicated on Sunday, May 8.
The symposium is co-sponsored by two groups, the Brazilian Center of Studies in Law and Religion and Brigham Young. University’s International Center for Law and Religion Studies.