World Youth Day 2008 Begins

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Writer

Hundreds of thousands of youth prayed, sang and rejoiced together at the opening Mass for World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, Australia.

“Secular wisdom claims that leopards do not change their spots,” said the main celebrant, Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, during the homily. “But we Christians believe in the power of the Spirit to convert and change persons away from evil to good; from fear and uncertainty to faith and hope.”

Echoing the theme of World Youth Day (WYD) 2008, which is the Holy Spirit and mission, he said “I pray that through the power of the Spirit all of you will join that immense army of saints, healed and reborn . . .”

The Mass took place on the harbor at Barangaroo and was attended by 143,000 youth with thousands more watching the Mass from nearby Darling Harbor.

Before the Mass began, youth who had attended WYD at previous locations gave testimonies. One man spoke of meeting his wife at WYD in Poland. A young religious from Germany spoke of discerning her vocation at WYD in Paris. Another woman spoke of discovering Christ’s True Presence in the Eucharist and of entering a personal relationship with Christ, and the importance of the Sacrament of Reconciliation at WYD in Cologne, Germany.

Their testimonies were followed by a song and dance performance by Australia’s aboriginal people.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd then made an announcement, greeting pilgrims from so many countries and talking about Christianity.

“Some say there is no place for faith in the 21st century,” said Prime Minister Rudd. “I say they are wrong. Some say that faith is the enemy of reason. I also say that they are wrong. Faith and reason are great partners.

“Some say only that which they see wrong in Christianity. I say, let’s speak also of what is right in Christianity and the Church. The Church began our first schools, hospitals, and refuges for the poor. Christianity has been an overwhelming force for the good in the world. Australia is a land of great freedom and many faiths, deeply shaped by it’s Christian heritage and future.”

A high point during the Mass was the arrival of the WYD cross and Icon of Our Lady which was greeted by more than 400,000 Australians since its July 1 landing in the country. 

Pope Benedict XVI landed in Australia on Sunday afternoon after a nearly 20 hour flight from Rome. He will spend three days of rest at the Kenthurt, an Opus Dei run retreat north of Sydney before making his first public appearance at WYD on Thursday.


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