During the last period for preparing the World Youth Day, the Taizé Community proposed the young people meeting in Sydney five days to be lived in the spirit of the Community, from 14th to 18th July. Apart from the liturgies done together, with special chants of the Taizé Community - assured the organizers -, there will also be time for silent prayer and meeting with the frères of the Community who are present in Australia on the occasion of the World Youth Day. The appointment is at the Anglican Church of St. James (in King Street), the oldest Anglican Church in Australia, located in the centre of the city of Sydney. In the evening of Wednesday, 16th July, Friar Alois, prior of the Taizé Community, is also joining the initiative.
(From our correspondents in Sydney) - A World Youth Day in the sign of interreligious dialogue. It is witnessed also by the over three hundred pilgrims hosted in the rooms of an Islamic school, Malek Fahd in Greenacre, west of Sydney. It is not the only example, because the programme of events for this World Youth Day is full of interreligious aspects. The most important one will be the Pope meeting the leaders and heads of other faiths on 18th July. Young Muslims and Hebrew will take part in the Youth Festival as well as the interfaith Forum, where the Apostolic Nuncio of Egypt is expected, Msgr. Michael Fitzgerald, together with Ikebal Patel for the Islamic, and David Knoll for the Hebrew. The young people will be able to know other religions also by visiting the Hebrew Museum of Sydney and the prayer centre. A film about Islam will be screened. Finally, it will be possible to take part in a dance workshop, promoted by Hebrew women.
(From our correspondents in Sydney) - I can see a clear holiday atmosphere introducing these days. We are sure that this World Youth Day, too, will be an opportunity to meet Jesus through the teachings of the Pope and bishops. Those words were said to SIR by the Secretary General of the Italian Bishops Conference, Msgr. Giuseppe Betori, as soon as he arrived at Sydney Airport to take part in the World Youth Day. The National Service for the youth pastoral of CEI - he added - perfectly included this World Youth Day in the three-year pastoral programme which is the Agora of young Italians, and for this reason, too, there is the conviction that it wont remain a separate event. Moreover, with reference to todays message of Benedict XVI to young Australians, and to his question where shall we look for answers?, Msgr. Betori declared: the message of the Pope took me back in time, at the World Youth Day of Rome in 2000, when John Paul II pointed out that one can find the expected answers in Christ; the central role played by Christ, according to the Church, is the key to real life renewal. Hundreds of young Italians were on the plane taking Msgr. Betori to Australia: The organizational machine - said Father Nicoló Anselmi, in charge of SNPG to SIR - is going on well. The young express their joy to meet on the other side of the world in various ways. The work carried out in local churches, and by the people in charge and the delegates of the youth pastoral is very good.
I will ask consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, said the Virgin Mary to the shepherd boys of Fatima in 1917. Today - it is written in a press release by the Fatima Sanctuary (www.santuario-fatima.pt) -, 91 years after that time, a Russian icon was located in the Apparition Chapel of the Sanctuary. The image was carried in procession until the chapel this morning, accompanied with about one hundred pilgrims. The word icon - explained Msgr. Luciano Guerra, the rector of the sanctuary - was heard for the first time in this sanctuary on 31st October 1942, when Pope Pious XII consecrated the whole world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The icon will go on being shown to be venerated by believers until this evening, after the rosarys prayer. The icon was painted in Russia following the specific techniques of the Byzantine iconographic tradition. The Virgin is portrayed with a rosary in her right hand, while in her left hand there is a writing heart, surrounded by thorns. According to custom for Byzantine icons, there are a few writings on the icon, which in this case have these words: Divine Maternity of Mary and Icon of the Holy Virgin of Fatima. In You, Unity!.
Witnessing to the Gospel at the University is the subject which is going to be tackled by European university students and their Australian colleagues tomorrow, within the XXIII World Youth Day. The young will meet at St. John College (University of Sydney) on invitation by the university chaplains of the Australian Archdiocese, of the association of Catholic students of Australia, and by the university pastoral office of the Vicariate of Rome, in the name of the Council of the European Bishops‘ Conferences. After debate on the subject and exchange of accounts, the European university students will deliver the Australian ones the image of Maria Sedes Sapientiae, donated by John Paul II to all the universities in the world. Information: www.university2000.org
(From our correspondents in Sydney) - With the arrival of the Pope at Sydney Airport, the XXIII World Youth Day reaches climax in Australian media, too. The Sunday Telegraph opens with a whole-page photo of Benedict XVI with a writing above it: Welcome; in the inner pages, it is announced by a reference in the cover, the opening message of the World Youth Day is published entirely for Sydney and the pilgrims. Inside the newspaper, three pages are devoted to the event, together with the leading article and an insert with the programme and the week‘s events. The atmosphere in the city - it is said in the leading article - is changing with the arrival of a landslide of joyful and smiling pilgrims. They are friendly, enthusiastic and totally distant from the cynicism often rendering our society so low. There is a reference in the front page also for The Sun Herlad, proposing the words spoken by the Pope, during the flight, in relation to the sex scandals involving exponents of the Australian Church, and the heading is: The Pope is sorry for the clergy‘s sins.
For the young in the diocese of Paris, the World Youth Day is not just a long journey to the opposite part of the world or extraordinary meetings such as the one with the Pope. The WYD will also continue after Sydney, through a mission to the Christian communities of Asia. It was announced in a note by the diocese of the French capital, which sent to Sydney as many as 681 young people making up 22 groups. Sent to mission like the Apostles - said the organizers -, the young people from Paris will prolong their pilgrimage with a mission to Thailand, Hong-Kong, Vietnam, Madagascar, Cambodia, India, Indonesia and China. A few boys will develop the mission in Australia. They are not tourist routes - assured the organizers -, but visits to other Churches, with which there have already been links for some time. It is important for the young to see other Churches grow, for example, in places where the priest is not present the whole day, or as happens in the Philippines, where the priest pays his visits every two months to confirm the work made by laymen and catechizing people, explained P. Olivier Teilhard de Chardin, vicar episcopal of the diocese of Paris. On the whole, about 1,600 young French will take part in the Sydney WYD, accompanied by Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, archbishop of Paris and president of the French Bishops Conference.
Dear families, friends and supporters: just because you cannot be in Sydney, this does not mean that you cannot live the WYD experience from home. This is the message that young New Zealanders have sent their compatriots who stayed home and for whom the Church has provided a virtual space, Connect (www.connect.org.nz), to fully live Sydneys WYD and be in touch with Christ, the Church and everybody else. It is a national diary, with many pictures and videos to live the Sydney experience in real time. Actually, several local churches have done the same as New Zealand and have decided to set up a virtual space so that people in Sydney could share their experience with people at home: the Spanish Church, with her blog administered by the Bishops Conference department for the Pastoral Care for Youth www.jmjsydney2008.blogspot.com, the French-speaking group of the Swiss Church with her jmj blog at www.jmj.ch/~blog, the Italian Church with her Gmg2008 website (www.gmg2008.it) developed by the National Service for the Pastoral Care for Youth. For the same reason, the US Bishops Conference has trained 22 young reporters in June who are currently broadcasting The 2008 WYD Virtual Pilgrimage (www.mycatholicvoice.com/wyd2008).
About 10,000 youngsters - 6,000 from the Czech Republic and 4,000 from Slovakia - are expected in Velehrad (a shrine in Southern Czechia, close to the Slovak border, dedicated to Saints Cyril and Methodius) from July 18 through 20 to celebrate World Youth Day together. This meeting, entitled Activ8, is organized by the offices for the pastoral care for youth of the two bishops conferences and has involved about 500 Czech and Slovak volunteer workers so far. Activ8 is an acronym which refers to the English quotation from the Gospel which was chosen as the general theme for this years WYD: Act Iv 8. Delegations of Polish and Hungarian youths are also expected to participate. According to the organizers, the main purpose of this initiative is to reach out to youngsters who cannot travel to Sydney, but also to strengthen relations between Czechs and Slovaks, revive cultural traditions and enhance cooperation. To liven things up, a bold, ambitious and so far unique music project has been ser up: ProActivBand, a band of 71 youngsters (50 choir singers and 21 musicians, half Czechs and half Slovaks). Young people gathering in Velerhad will be able to follow the main WYD events in Sydney on megascreens.
(from our correspondents in Sydney) - We share the words of the Pope on the need to show respect and understanding for the victims of sexual abuses, said the Most Rev. Anthony Fisher, bishop coordinator of WYD, in Sydney this morning. The bishop was commenting on the cases of sexual violence committed by ecclesiastics that have occurred in Australia in the past. He emphasized however that the Holy Fathers visit to Australia is already full of engagements, so a meeting of Benedict XVI with the victims of sexual violence would be improbable, and if any such meeting were to occur, it would be in a strictly private form. For his part Bishop Fisher remarked that sexual abuses have no place in the Church, and that the Australian Church itself has the firm intention to do everything possible to help the victims of violence and to prevent further cases. Whats needed - he concluded - is justice and compassion.
(from our correspondents in Sydney) - We are very fortunate in being among the first countries to have received a visit from no less than three popes: Paul VI, John Paul II and, now, Benedict XVI. Today we are the centre of Catholicism, with the presence of the Pope, numerous bishops, priests, and especially so many young people who are the future of the Church, said the Most Rev. Anthony Fisher of the Archdiocese of Sydney, bishop coordinator of WYD, in Sydney this morning, expressing the joy of the Australian Church for the event that it is about to experience. We hope - he added - that this World Youth Day may bring back Australian youth to the Church, and that one day theyll become the protagonists of a better Church for a better world. At the present time pilgrims full of joy are arriving in Sydney and throughout the country, observed Bishop Fisher. He also announced that in the culminating moments of WYD - the opening mass at Barangaroo, the Via Crucis and the final mass at Randwich - a participation of some 500,000 persons is anticipated. At the moment, those officially registered, explains the WYD organization, are approximately 250,000, but new pilgrims asking to be enrolled are continually arriving by day and by night.
(from our correspondents in Sydney) - We are proud of the work done by the Australian Department for Emigration to provide a solution to the question of visas for young Iraqis, said Mgr. Fisher, bishop coordinator of WYD in Sydney, on announcing this morning that Iraqi youth could participate in WYD. According to a briefing to SIR by WYD executive director Danny Casey, a part of the youth are already en route to Sydney. No information, on the other hand, has been released on the number of vistas issued and hence of the number of participants. The problem - explained Mgr. Fisher - is that many of these youths dont have a passport and therefore its difficult to establish their identity with certainty. The presence of the Iraqis will permit them to join in the procession with their national flag in the Via Crucis on 18 July, Mgr. Fisher confirmed to SIR, though he dismissed the idea they could carry the cross in some Stations of the Cross during the rite.
There is a saying attributed to Saint Augustine: ‘If you wish to remain young, seek Christ, continued the Pope. In him we find the answers that we are seeking, we find the goals that are truly worth living for, we find the strength to pursue the path that will bring about a better world. Our hearts find no rest until they rest in the Lord, as Saint Augustine says at the beginning of the Confessions, the famous account of his own youth. My prayer is that the hearts of the young people who gather in Sydney for the celebration of World Youth Day will truly find rest in the Lord, and that they will be filled with joy and fervour for spreading the Good News among their friends, their families, and all whom they meet. Dear Australian friends, although I will only be able to spend a few days in your country, and I will not be able to travel outside Sydney, my heart reaches out to all of you, including those who are sick or in difficulties of any kind. On behalf of all the young people, I thank you again for your support of my mission and I ask you to continue praying for them especially. It remains only for me to renew my invitation to the young people from all over the world to join me in Australia, the great ‘southern land of the Holy Spirit. I look forward to seeing you there! May God bless you all.
The Psalmist prays: when you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth (Ps 104:30). It is my firm belief that young people are called to be instruments of that renewal, communicating to their peers the joy they have experienced through knowing and following Christ, and sharing with others the love that the Spirit pours into their hearts, so that they too will be filled with hope and with thanksgiving for all the good things they have received from our heavenly Father, declared the Holy Father. Many young people today lack hope, he pointed out. They are perplexed by the questions that present themselves ever more urgently in a confusing world, and they are often uncertain which way to turn for answers. They see poverty and injustice and they long to find solutions. They are challenged by the arguments of those who deny the existence of God and they wonder how to respond. They see great damage done to the natural environment through human greed and they struggle to find ways to live in greater harmony with nature and with one another. Where can we look for answers? The Spirit points us towards the way that leads to life, to love and to truth. The Spirit points us towards Jesus Christ. (to be continued)
On his arrival in Sydney (7 a.m) Benedict XVI addressed a videomessage to the people of Australia and to the young pilgrims. I very much look forward to the days that I shall spend with you, and especially to the opportunities for prayer and reflection with young people from all over the world, said the Pope, declaring also his appreciation to all those who have offered so much of their time, their resources and their prayers in support of this celebration, such as the governmental authorities, organizers of the events, sponsors. Many of the young people have made great sacrifices in order to undertake the journey to Australia, and I pray that they will be rewarded abundantly, he added, expressing his thanks also to the parishes, schools and host families. You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you: and you will be my witnesses (Act 1:8). This is the theme of the Twenty-Third World Youth Day. How much our world needs a renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit! There are still many who have not heard the Good News of Jesus Christ, while many others, for whatever reason, have not recognized in this Good News the saving truth that alone can satisfy the deepest longings of their hearts. (to be continued)