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Some sequels to World Youth Day

29/07/2008: Australia

Barangaroo, on the banks of the magnificent Sydney harbor, with the famous bridge and its Opera House, was the scene of the arrival of the Pope by boat, accompanied by young people invited to share the crossing to the old pier where the pilgrims were waiting. The trip began with the welcome from the Aboriginal chiefs on the pier of Rose Bay, with songs in the local dialect and in the various languages of the indigenous peoples of Oceania. The boat crossed the harbor accompanied by a number of other boats.

The Pope addressed the young people who were waiting for him on the pier telling them: “Whatever country we came from, finally we’re here, in Sydney. And we are together in this our world as the family of God, as disciples of Christ, inspired by the Spirit to be witnesses of his love and his truth before others.”

At the sight of so many flags and banners waved by the pilgrims, someone exclaimed: “There are more flags here than at the UN.” The Pope described what he saw before his eyes like this: “I see before me a vibrant image of the Universal Church. The variety of nations and cultures from which you come, demonstrates that truly the Good News of Christ is for all and it has arrived at all ends of the earth.” And he referred to the first missionaries of these lands: “Today we remember those pioneer priests and religious, who arrived on these shores and other regions of the Pacific Ocean, from Ireland, France, Great Britain and other parts of Europe. The majority of them were young, some barely twenty years old, and, when they left their parents, brothers, sisters and friends, they knew that it would be difficult to return home.”

The catecheses of the bishops and cardinals

During these days the pilgrims had the opportunity to attend different catecheses on the Holy Spirit and mission, given in 25 languages by cardinals and bishops from all over the world at 250 different places.

On Wednesday the theme was “Called to live in the Holy Spirit,” from the biblical quote: If we live animated by the Spirit, let us also be led by Him.” Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa, invited the listeners to be holy taking “vitamin C,” with the C from the four words: confirmation, communion, confession, Christ.

The catecheses were accompanied by songs, reflections, questions, possibilities for confession, and concluded with the Eucharist.

Dramatic presentation of the Way of the Cross

With a prayer from the Pope, Friday afternoon began with the presentation of the Way of the Cross, performed by hundreds of non-professional actors, who recreated the last supper seated on the steps of St. Mary’s Cathedral. Benedict XVI followed the rest of the stations on television in the crypt of the cathedral.

Alfio Stutio, a 27 year old Australian actor, played Jesus. At the seventh station the actors were Aborigines dressed in kangaroo skins and painted with ashes, a sign of mourning in their tradition. Thousands of young people watched the performance on several giant screens set up in the parks and squares of Sydney. The atmosphere was charged with emotion.

Vigil under the stars and closing Mass at Randwick

The pilgrims lodged in schools had to leave them on Saturday morning since classes would resume the following Monday. The raceway at Randwick served as a camping ground for more than 200,000 young people to spend the night. At dusk a prayer vigil was organized with meditation songs.

In the morning many other persons gathered to take part in the closing Mass in a multitudinous celebration attended by some 400,000 people, a number never before known in the history of Australia. Benedict XVI arrived on Sunday by helicopter and traveled around the place in the “pope mobile” greeting the audience.

One of the most outstanding moments of the Eucharist was the confirmation of 24 young people, corresponding with the slogan of this World Youth Day “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you will be my witnesses.”

In his homily, the Pope said: “Here in Australia, this “great south land of the Holy Spirit”, all of us have had an unforgettable experience of the Spirit’s presence and power in the beauty of nature. Our eyes have been opened to see the world around us as it truly is: “charged”, as the poet says, “with the grandeur of God”, filled with the glory of his creative love. Here too, in this great assembly of young Christians from all over the world, we have had a vivid experience of the Spirit’s presence and power in the life of the Church. We have seen the Church for what she truly is: the Body of Christ, a living community of love, embracing people of every race, nation and tongue, of every time and place, in the unity born of our faith in the Risen Lord.”
He also referred to the history of evangelization in the southern hemisphere: “At his Ascension, the Risen Lord told his disciples: “You will be my witnesses … to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Here, in Australia, let us thank the Lord for the gift of faith, which has come down to us like a treasure passed on from generation to generation in the communion of the Church. Here, in Oceania, let us give thanks in a special way for all those heroic missionaries, dedicated priests and religious, Christian parents and grandparents, teachers and catechists who built up the Church in these lands – witnesses like Blessed Mary MacKillop, Saint Peter Chanel, Blessed Peter To Rot, and so many others! The power of the Spirit, revealed in their lives, is still at work in the good they left behind, in the society which they shaped and which is being handed on to you.” A challenge remained in the air: What will you leave to the next generation?
At the Angelus which followed the Mass, the Pope said good bye to the young people remembering the Annunciation as a link that God offers Mary, to which she responds with a “yes” in the name of all humankind.

The next World Youth Day will be in Madrid in 2011. Benedict XVI joyfully looked on these manifestations of faith. “What good seeds have been sown during these days!”, he remarked on Sunday afternoon, upon meeting with the sponsors and organizers of the meeting in the chapter hall of the cathedral in Sydney.

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