Report: Rio de Janeiro’s Churches in Disrepair Due to Negligence, Vandalism

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 21: The Olympic flame is seen lit in front of the candelaria church on the Olympic Boulevard while the Rio 2016 closing ceremony takes place at Maracana Stadium on August 21, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Many churches in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, are in a state of disrepair as a result of poor conservation and vandalism, O Globo reported Monday.

One of the most affected churches is the Church of Santo Antonio, an over 400-year-old building that is currently in a state of disrepair following an unsuccessful restoration project.

Buildings in the region of Baixada Fluminense are often subject to vandalism such as graffiti, while buildings such as the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary and St. Benedict of the Black Men were, last month, ordered to close by the Federal Public Ministry over fears they present a fire risk. Both buildings reportedly belong to a religious brotherhood that has recently been declared bankrupt.

The problems are also affecting buildings owned by the Catholic Church. After being closed five years, the Church of Our Lady of Pilar, built in 1720 and belonging to the Diocese of Duque de Caxias, also needs financial help to repair widespread damages. In 2014, part of the building’s ceiling collapsed due to a termite infestation, and a fundraising campaign is still underway to help pay for the restoration.

Even churches in the most affluent areas of Rio de Janeiro, where some of the country’s most luxurious weddings take place, require repairs. At one building in Candelária, O Globo noted, the German stain glass windows are broken after being hit by stones, while walls are peeling and are often covered in stains.

In a bid to tackle the issue, six months ago, the Archdiocese of Rio formed the Commission for the Preservation of Historical and Cultural Heritage comprised of clergymen, congregations, and repairmen. During the commission’s first meeting last year, Father Silmar Fernandes warned that the Catholic Church has a responsibility to safeguard not only its assets but also those run by brotherhoods and independent bodies.

Churches are not the only part of Brazilian infrastructure left in a state of disrepair over recent years. In the aftermath of hosting both the World Cup and the Rio Olympics, dozens of venues now lay empty or in ruins.

Before the games were held in 2016, protesters complained that the government was prioritizing international caché over genuine economic development. Their fears have since been confirmed after the government spent around $13 billion on an event that has had little to no impact on social inequality.

Last year, the National Museum of Brazil was also left in ruins after a fire that collapsed at least two of the 200-year-old former palace’s floors and destroyed the majority of items on display. The incident was later blamed on years of government cutbacks by socialist administrations, with former President Michel Temer describing it as a “tragic” loss of knowledge and heritage.

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