20,000 young people aged 18 to 30 from all over Australia have filled the Olympic Park in Sydney, which is hosting the Australian Catholic Youth Festival from 7 to 9 December. The meeting at the Qudos Bank Arena kicked off with Canadian Catholic music star Matt Maher. Then Archbishop Anthony Fisher, the Archbishop of Sydney and Bishops’ Delegate for Youth, challenged the young people present to follow the example of Mary and “Say Yes” to the plans God has for their lives. The Archbishop then reminded those present of the words addressed by Pope Francis to young people during the World Youth Day vigil in Krakow. “Dear young people, we didn’t come into this work to ‘vegetate’, to take it easy, to make our lives a comfortable sofa to fall asleep on. No, we came for another reason: to leave a mark”. “Get up off the couch and you’ll be able to see further as well as do more”, Archbishop Fisher said. “And that new horizon that is opened up will be a source of joy for you and for others. Say a Marian YES, an in-God-I-trust YES, a with-all-my-heart YES, a for-today-and-always YES to God and see what He can do with you”. The Festival in Sydney provided the perfect setting for the national launch of the Year of Youth proclaimed by the Australian Bishops in view of the Synod on Youth that will begin in Rome in October 2018. A year, the Bishops explain, aimed at inviting the whole Church into dialogue about the importance of the “life-giving presence” of young people in the Church and in society and of a process of renewal in the life of the Church. The young people also received a message from Pope Francis which was read out by Archbishop Fisher: May the Festival – Pope Francis said – “be an occasion for young Catholics of the nation to deepen their relationship with the Lord and to offer the Church and society the message of faith which is a flame that grows stronger the more it is shared and passed on, so that everyone may know, love, and confess Jesus Christ, the Lord of Life and History”.