Vienna, Austria, Jul 12, 2008 (CNA) - Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schönborn left on July 9 with 750 young people to take part in the 23rd World Youth Day, hopeful that the papal celebration will leave a deep impression on Europe.
The cardinal spoke of his excitement to attend the festivities with Benedict XVI: “I have been driven to go to Australia by the experience of the latest WYD of Cologne, where it was unbelievably exciting for me to be able to celebrate and experience faith with so many other young people. And to meet the Pope, of course.”
The cardinal is certain that though the celebration is in Australia, WYD will have an impact on Europe as well. “These days can have an impact on anyone who takes part. Since World Youth Days have existed since 1984, many things have happened as a result of the Youth Days. We have found great guidance for faith, for life. I think the experience of these WYDs has been something extremely important for a whole generation of young Catholics.”
Other World Youth Days have been held in: Buenos Aires, Argentina; Santiago de Compostela, Spain; Czestochowa, Poland; Denver, USA; Manila, Philippines; Paris, France; Rome, Italy; Toronto, Canada; and Cologne, Germany.
Sydney, Australia, Jul 12, 2008 (CNA) - The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference’s National Office for Evangelization has launched an evangelization program called “Rewired” to sustain the enthusiasm of young Catholics after World Youth Day.
The Rewired resource program can be run by youth leaders over six sessions. A press release from the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) says the program provides an environment for young people to reflect, grow, and share their faith.
“Rewired is for young people deeply immersed in their faith as well as those who haven’t had much to do with the Church at all,” said Marita Winters, director of the ACBC’s National Office for Evangelization. “It is an opportunity for young people in a parish, school, or on a university campus to invite their peers to look at their faith and tradition in a welcoming environment. It is also a useful tool for a parish which wants to start a youth group.”
“As the Body of the Christ, we all want to be able to tap into that level of excitement and raised spiritual awareness that is so often a feature of World Youth Day, and to translate it into a deep and lasting connection with the life of the Church,” Winters said.
The Rewired program will go on sale during World Youth Day Week. More information is available at www.evangeliseaustralia.com.
Rome, Italy, Jul 12, 2008 (CNA) - The Australian government has denied visas to dozens of World Youth Day pilgrims from Iraq, citing concerns that participants will not return home and instead will seek asylum in Australia. One Chaldean Catholic priest called the decision “a slap at young people who wanted to go to witness to the faith and the joy of the church’s living in Iraq despite sufferings.”
Initially the Australian government denied visas for nearly 170 pilgrims, allowing only ten visas to aspiring World Youth Day participants, the SIR News Agency says. According to the website Baghdadhope, there are now only about 30 total visas available that will be granted “in extremis.”
Father Rayan P. Atto, parish priest of Mar Qardagh Church in Erbil, told SIR News Agency that the concerns about asylum seekers were unfounded, arguing that, “for young Christian Iraqis, taking part in the WYD in Sydney was not a way to leave their country.”
“Most of the group members come from northern Iraq, a quiet area,” he continued. “They have no reason to escape and they would certainly not do it on an occasion related to faith.”
Before it was reported that 30 visas would be available for pilgrims, Father Atto said the Australian Embassy in Amman, Jordan had approved only ten visas. “How can one reduce a group of almost 170 people down to just ten?” he asked.
The news of the 30 total visas did not satisfy Fr. Philip Najim, Chaldean Procurator to the Holy See.
“This is a real scandal, a slap at young people who wanted to go to witness to the faith and the joy of the church’s living in Iraq despite sufferings,” Fr. Najim said, speaking to MISNA news agency. “The dream of young Iraqis to participate in World Youth Day in Sydney shatters against the wall of mistrust and of bureaucracy, after the Australian embassy in Amman completely denied the visas in the beginning and then, today, granted 30 entry visas to the country… just 30, of which 12 are for religious and only 18 for young boys and girls, on a list of 170 people delivered since last year."
"What makes the refusal bitter is their inference that young people could take advantage of this opportunity to remain as applicants for asylum. According to them there would be no sufficient guarantees that they will return home,” the monsignor continued.
“The refusal of the entry visas to the young Iraqis who wished to attend the World Youth Day makes us very sad,” said Chaldean Bishop Jibrail Kassab of the Eparchy of Oceania and New Zealand.
“It would have been a great opportunity for sharing faith,” the bishop told SIR, “which would have been beneficial to so many young people, and not only Iraqis. Unfortunately, presumably political reasons prevented this.”
The Australian Embassy said that political, not economic reasons motivated their decision. The embassy said that in most cases the documents concerning the employment and financial situation of the pilgrims are missing.
However, the embassy had reportedly been informed that the Church would guarantee the visa applicants’ expenses.
According to Baghdadhope, the Iraqi World Youth Day delegation of 30 will include ten priests. The Most Rev. Mikha P. Maqdassi, the Chaldean Bishop of Al Qosh, will also be part of the delegation along with a nun, ten young people active in parish youth groups, and eight people designated to carry the cross in Sydney.
About 700 Iraqi emigrants living in Australia, the United States, and Europe will reportedly attend World Youth Day in Sydney next week.
Sydney, Australia, Jul 12, 2008 (CNA) - A statue of Pope John Paul II which stands more than six and a half feet tall and weighs more than 1,100 lbs. was unveiled at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney last Saturday.
A group of Italian immigrants in Sydney raised about $100,000 in a series of fundraising concerts to commission the statue from Italian sculptor Firenzo Bacci, the Catholic Weekly reports. It was commissioned in October 2007 and arrived in Sydney in January.
Monsignor Dino Fragiacomo, a local parish priest, said the Italian community wanted to donate a “beautiful and lasting reminder” of the Pope.
"Pope John Paul II meant so much to the youth and people all over the world," he said.
"The statue was donated to remember him and the renewal of consecration to Our Lady.”
"The statue is beautiful, mystical in its own way and I'm sure will be admired by those who come to the cathedral," said the monsignor.
Monsignor Fragiacomo said the Italian community has “nothing but praise for the statue,” noting that “Cardinal Pell has also expressed his appreciation.”
"My hope is that the statue can stand at St Mary's Cathedral for centuries to be admired by all."
The monsignor, who has been in Australia for 16 years, also oversaw the construction of the mountaintop shrine to Mary, Mother and Queen on Monte Grisa, Trieste (Italy).
Sydney, Australia, Jul 12, 2008 (CNA) - Several leading Australian political figures who are Catholic will attend the papal Mass closing World Youth Day, highlighting some leaders’ inconsistencies in applying their faith to political life.
Morris Iemma, the Premier of New South Wales who voted for embryonic stem cell research, has said he wants to receive Holy Communion from Pope Benedict XVI at the closing Mass for World Youth Day but also said he did not expect to do so, the Sydney Morning Herald says.
Iemma, a practicing Catholic, said having the Pope in Sydney would be a “deeply rewarding experience for all Catholics, my family included.”
New South Wales Deputy Premier John Watkins, who is also a Catholic, said he would probably attend the closing Mass “in an operational capacity rather than as a guest.” Watkins cast a vote that helped overturn the state parliament’s ban on so-called therapeutic cloning.
Watkins and Iemma voted in favor of the stem cell bill despite a warning from the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, who said that their vote would have consequences concerning their place in the life of the Church.
Other Australian officials will attend the closing Mass, including Kristina Keneally, the New South Wales Minister for Ageing, who met her husband at a previous World Youth Day and voted against the embryonic stem cell bill. The Minister for Ports and Waterways, Joe Tripodi, will also be present. He has described Catholicism as “one of the most significant factors in my upbringing.”
At the closing Mass at Royal Randwick Racecourse the Pope will give Holy Communion to a select group of 24 young confirmation candidates and their sponsors. Others, including the New South Wales ministers, will be able to receive Holy Communion from attending priests.
London, England, Jul 12, 2008 (CNA) - Along with 20 bishops, 2,000 young people from England and Wales are traveling to Sydney to see Pope Benedict on his first visit to Australia. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Archbishop of Westminster expressed his excitement for the visit given the impact it will have on Australia and on the young people who attend.
“The Holy Father’s visit will be a blessing for the country in a very significant way,” explained Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor. “Australia exerts a strong fascination; many English and Welsh youngsters go there to work for a short period. It’s important that the youth of England and Wales should support World Youth Day, especially when it is being held in an English-speaking country.”
The cardinal continued by explaining that he is mostly looking forward to “meeting the young, not only those from our country but especially those from other countries.”
To assist in enriching the WYD experience, the Bishop’s Conference compiled a book of prayers for the English and Welsh pilgrims.
Those attending WYD will also be able to reach out to those unable to visit Sydney though diocesan blogs which will relate the experiences of over 30 pilgrims.