Sydney, Australia, Jul 20, 2008 (CNA) - World Youth Day celebrations reached their climatic end on Sunday as Pope Benedict XVI concluded the biggest ever gathering of people in Australia. The Holy Father challenged the youth to bring about a “new age” for humanity by being open to the power of the Holy Spirit and to think about the legacy that they will leave for future generations.
In spectacular fashion, the Pope flew over the racecourse in a helicopter before processing through the 400,000 strong crowd. As his Popemobile navigated around the site, the Pope a received a ecstatic reception from the youth.
In his homily, the Pope highlighted the strength of the Holy Spirit, and the importance for hope to be revived, and especially for the youth to be Christ’s witnesses.
“What will you leave to the next generation? Are you building your lives on firm foundations, building something that will endure?” the Pope asked.
“Are you living your lives in a way that opens up space for the Spirit in the midst of a world that wants to forget God, or even rejects him in the name of a falsely-conceived freedom?"
“How are you using the gifts you have been given, the ‘power’ which the Holy Spirit is even now prepared to release within you? What legacy will you leave to young people yet to come? What difference will you make?”
The Pope also took the opportunity to focus on the theme of WYD08, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.”
“At each Mass, in fact, the Holy Spirit descends anew, invoked by the solemn prayer of the Church, not only to transform our gifts of bread and wine into the Lord’s body and blood, but also to transform our lives, to make us, in his power, ‘one body, one spirit in Christ,’” the Pope said.
Describing Australia as a “great south land of the Holy Spirit,” the Pope spoke of the “unforgettable experience of the Spirit’s presence and power in the beauty of nature,” received during WYD.
“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.”
“The Holy Father also encouraged those present to pray, as the “power [of the] grace of the Spirit, is not something we can merit or achieve, but only receive as pure gift. God’s love can only unleash its power when it is allowed to change us from within.”
“That is why prayer is so important: daily prayer, private prayer in the quiet of our hearts and before the Blessed Sacrament, and liturgical prayer in the heart of the Church.”
The theme of hope in Christ was recurrent in the Pope’s homily.
“The outpouring of Christ’s Spirit upon humanity is a pledge of hope and deliverance from everything that impoverishes us. It gives the blind new sight; it sets the downtrodden free, and it creates unity in and through diversity. This power can create a new world: it can ‘renew the face of the earth’!”
A New Age of the Holy Spirit
The Pope spoke of a “new age,” where “a new generation of Christians is being called to help build a world in which God’s gift of life is welcomed, respected and cherished – not rejected, feared as a threat and destroyed.”
“A new age in which love is not greedy or self-seeking, but pure, faithful and genuinely free, open to others, respectful of their dignity, seeking their good, radiating joy and beauty.”
“A new age in which hope liberates us from the shallowness, apathy and self-absorption which deaden our souls and poison our relationships. Dear young friends, the Lord is asking you to be prophets of this new age, messengers of his love, drawing people to the Father and building a future of hope for all humanity.”
The Pope proclaimed that such renewal is necessary, saying that there “is [in] so many of our societies, side by side with material prosperity, a spiritual desert is spreading: an interior emptiness, an unnamed fear, a quiet sense of despair.”
“The Church especially needs the gifts of young people, all young people.”
The Pope also called the young people to unity and to create an new era of evangelization.
“I pray that this great assembly, which unites young people ‘from every nation under heaven,’ will be a new Upper Room.”
The Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal Pell also said a few words thanking the Pope and giving thanks for World Youth Day.
“Your Holiness… just a few days after your election as Bishop of Rome, you said that the historic days of April 2005 taught us that “the Church is not old and immobile; she is young.”
“So we give thanks for the WYD, which is a gift for the Church as a whole, for those both old and young. At WYD, the Church appears as she truly is, alive with evangelical energy!”
Sydney, Australia, Jul 20, 2008 (CNA) - The Final Mass concluding World Youth Day celebrations contained a number of distinctive features. First and foremost among the highlights is that it was the largest gathering of people in the history of Australia.
This Mass was the grandest and most significant one in Australia’s history, attended by twenty-six cardinals, 420 bishops and thousands of priests and religious.
Another extraordinary occurrence was the Confirmation of 24 people, including fourteen Australians and Juan Martinez from the U.S.A.
It was a momentous task to distribute Communion to the masses, which involved 1,300 priests, Acolytes and Extraordinary Ministers.
“This whole week has just been a magnificent eye-opener to how faith and God is alive among young people and the Church in Australia,” said Fr. Mark Podesta WYD08 spokesman.
“Never before has Australia and Sydney seen such a mass gathering of happy and exuberant young people- it completely transformed our city!”
Tomorrow, the Holy Father will thank the 8,000 volunteers at a special farewell party in the Domain beginning at 8:00 a.m.
The final farewell of the Holy Father will be at Sydney Airport when he boards his Qantas flight to Rome at 10:00 a.m. on Monday.
Adrianna, one of the pilgrims revelling in Spain’s chance to host WYD11, invited all pilgrims to Spain saying, “It’s a very beautiful country, there’s lots to see. People are very friendly, you’ll make lots of friends and have fun there with all of us.”
Sydney, Australia, Jul 20, 2008 (CNA) - At the Final Mass for World Youth Day in Sydney, Pope Benedict announced that the next World Youth Day would be held in Madrid, Spain in 2011.
Spanish pilgrims erupted into excited chants of “Viva el Papa” “Estaes la juventud del Papa” (Long live the Pope, We are the youth of the Pope), waving a sea of yellow and red Spanish flags when the announcement was made.
Antonio, 30 from Madrid, Spain said, “I’m very happy, very well, I’m happy that they chose Spain. We had something in “CuatroVientos ,“ it wasn’t a WYD but it was a gathering of young people, and it had a good response, so I think that it will be good. We will try to do it as well as they did it in Australia, but they set a high standard.”
“It was impressive when the Pope said that the next WYD will be in Madrid, because I think that in Spain we need the young people to be witnesses to Christ, even when it seems that we are a very Catholic country with a lot of faith, we need to revitalize it, and rejuvenate it. We also need it because as Spanish people we want to give to others, the things we already received,” said the 26 year-old Azucena.
“I love that it’s in Spain, firstly because I think that Spanish people are funny and warm. Secondly I think it’s better for me because it’s closer than Australia,” said Flavio Lombardi, 17 from Madrid.
“I love to be here and I love Australia. I think that the World Youth Day here was fantastic,” he said.
“I am very happy because it is needed and I’m really looking forward to being a volunteer. I’m a bit disappointed that it’s not in another place because I will not be able to learn about another country, but I’m very happy that it’s in Spain.”
Later today Cardinal Antonio MaríaRouco Varela will hold a press conference to discuss the announcement that his Archdiocese will host the next World Youth Day.
Sydney, Australia, Jul 20, 2008 (CNA) - Over 235,000 young pilgrims camped at Randwick Racecourse last night awaiting the final Mass celebrated this morning. While half of the 500,000 who attended the final Mass traveled into the racecourse via public transport, thousands of pilgrims braved the cold to reserve their space for the Mass, pray before the Blessed Sacrament, receive confession and take part in the night’s festivities.
Armed with tents and sleeping bags, pilgrims such as Jennifer Giddins, from Michigan’s Diocese of Lansing who took a group of 19 pilgrims from various parishes, camped out under the Australian night sky. On her third WYD, Jennifer said the camp out went relatively well.
“It was better compared to the other years. In Toronto, it was wet and in Cologne it was dewy, so it was great.”
She also described her WYD as fantastic. “What I really like is meeting other people knowing that we are connected in the faith,” she said. “I’m a youth minister in the States, so bringing the youth here and having them realize that their not the only ones back at home in the States, who are Catholic.”
To prepare for the night, Jennifer told the pilgrims to “bring all their warm stuff, leave ipods and things at home because they’re going to be more than enough to experience.”
Apart from religious contemplation, other activities included Irish dancing in the walkways between campsites, drumming circles, singing and walking amongst the stream of people travelling all over the site until the early hours of the morning.
Gabriel, 27, from the Dominican Republic, found the night cold saying, “I was waking up every once in a while. At home, it’s constantly 32 degrees (Celsius) and doesn’t change much.”
The temperature dropped in Sydney last night to 1-4 degrees Celsius (33-39 degrees Fahrenheit).
Sydney, Australia, Jul 20, 2008 (CNA) - The largest ever gathering of U.S. pilgrims at a WYD festival was held yesterday morning at The Domain, one of Sydney’s landmark parks for WYD08. In his homily, Cardinal Francis George spoke of the freedom in surrendering to Christ.
An initiative of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the gathering involved a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Francis George, OMI, President of the USCCB, and attended by approximately 35 bishops, 40 priests and approximately 4,500 U.S. pilgrims.
Music for the Mass was led by musicians from Oregon Catholic Press and World Library Publications.
Cardinal George’s homily focused on the Church’s mission and the freedom gained in surrendering to Christ.
“The mission of the Church is to help people be free,” he told the pilgrims.
To illustrate his point, he retold the story of a visit he made to Greenland in the early 1970’s. “All the Eskimos,” he explained to the congregation, “were Catholic, due to the success of missionaries.”
He was told by an Eskimo about how her life before having known Jesus Christ was based on fear and taboo. “To hear it told to us, that Christ has conquered all…that we do not have to be afraid, although there are evils, they were all conquered by Christ… made me feel like I was free, free in Christ,” she said the cardinal.
“We are free, free in Christ,” said the cardinal to the people.
He urged the pilgrims not to be afraid, as the disciples were after the death of Jesus Christ.
“We should ask as we walk along our path to freedom, who is walking with us on our way? We should conquer the fears in our lives,” said the cardinal, giving examples such as fear of war and economic turmoil.
“Jesus Christ gives us his peace and his freedom.”
He reminded the pilgrims to be grateful to the friends of family members who brought them to Christ.
“Look for what is true,” urged Cardinal George. “God made us smart. He wants us to search for the truth and to work together to achieve it.”
He went on to say that we have discovered that “Truth is a person, and the person has a name, that is Jesus.”
“Once we discover that truth is a person, it is not enough just to surrender your mind, you must surrender your heart, your emotions, your will, your body, your soul, your entire person.”
“You surrender to a person because Jesus surrendered himself to you. Everyone who falls in love knows that. Every good wife or husband knows that, every priest who is married to the Church knows that too.”
“If you are going to meet the truth in a person, the only response possible is total self sacrifice.”
“The irony, mystery or paradox of the Gospel truth, is that in that surrender, you become free.”
“Search for the Truth, surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ, and in that receive your freedom back as a gift,” said the cardinal, quoting Pope Benedict XVI.
Antonio, a U.S. pilgrim who came with a contingent from the Neocatechumenal Way spoke to CNA after the Mass.
“The homily clarified to me my mission in this world… which is to pronounce JC to everybody, and how I see Jesus Christ in my life, to translate this faith to my sons and to my family and my faith, with my life.”
“It’s wonderful today. The homily really taught Jesus Christ guides me to live a free life in the Catholic faith.”
Stephanie, 17, from Fresno, California, was attending her first World Youth Day. She said her highlight was seeing the Pope and meeting people from all over the world. It was a wonderful experience."
Sydney, Australia, Jul 20, 2008 (CNA) - Expressing his thanks for his city being chosen as site for the 2011 World Youth Day, Juan Antonio Martinez, Auxiliary Bishop of Madrid spoke at a press conference today at the Radisson Plaza Hotel after the announcement was made.
“I would like to express my gratitude in the name of the diocese of Madrid for choosing our city,” began the bishop. “We greatly appreciate this gesture of the Holy of Father and we give thanks to the Providence and the God of history that made it possible for the next WYD to be celebrated in Madrid.”
“We are ready to prepare it and we know what is needed to organize a WYD. We have experience from organizing the WYD in Santiago, the 4th WYD, which was the second to be celebrated outside of Rome.”
“We see the WYD as a significant event in the life of the Church with a pastoral meaning and consequences in the cultural life of the State, and we are sure that those will be very positive lasting impacts,” he told reporters in Spanish.”
The cardinal said that WYD activities will take place in the third week of August in 2011.
Sydney, Australia, Jul 20, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI met four victims of child sex abuse this morning at a private Mass held at St. Mary’s Cathedral House. Two women and two men, who wished to remain anonymous, celebrated Mass with the Pope, who then listened to their stories and offered consolation.
Assuring them of his spiritual closeness, the Holy Father promised his continued prayers for them, their families and all victims, according to a press statement released today by the Holy See Press Office.
“Through his paternal gesture, the Holy Father wished to demonstrate again his deep concern for all those who have suffered sexual abuse.”
This meeting followed the Pope’s apology those who had been sexually abused by members of the Catholic Church in Australia, where he said he was “deeply sorry,” for the pain and suffering victims had endured.
The Archdiocese of Sydney says its Professional Standard Office nominated four victims to meet with the Holy Father. “The Holy Father’s meeting with victims reflects the continuing commitment of the whole church in Australia to bring healing and justice to those who have been terribly hurt by sexual abuse.”
Sydney, Australia, Jul 20, 2008 (CNA) - The Pope personally thanked volunteers of World Youth Day this morning on the lawn of Sydney's famous park, The Domain, where hundreds of volunteers gathered to say goodbye to the Holy Father just hours before he was scheduled to leave for Rome.
“I want to thank all of you for the generous commitment of time and energy you have made, in order to ensure the smooth running of each of the events we have celebrated together,” Pope Benedict told the volunteers.
“Your efforts have prepared the ground for the Spirit to come down in power, forging bonds of unity and friendship among young people from widely differing backgrounds, and rekindling their love for Jesus Christ and his Church.”
He then thanked each of the bishops, priests, religious, teachers, host families, schools and parish communities who ‘have given so much to make World Youth Day a success.” He also particularly thanked Bishop Anthony Fisher and Mr. Danny Casey, the organizers of WYD08.
“We read in the Acts of the Apostles that ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive- but I trust that you will nevertheless have received much from those you have served so generously in the course of our celebrations. To all of you, I say a sincere and heartfelt ‘thank you'."
“As I set off on my journey back to Rome, I shall treasure the memory of the many grace-filled events we have experienced together… I pray that you too will take many precious memories and spiritual insights away with you, and will return to your homes and families with fresh zeal to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” said the Pope.
“In the power of the Spirit, go forth now to renew the face of the earth!" the Pope exhorted the crowd.
Guy Sebastian, winner of the inaugural Australian Idol competition, and Paulini, who composed the WYD song, “Receive the Power,” performed in front of the Pope as he met with WYD08 ambassadors, Australian sports stars, and victims of accidents before leaving for the Papal flight at the Sydney Airport.
Sydney, Australia, Jul 20, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict departed Australia for Rome today after a busy eight-day stay. The Holy Father bid adieu by blessing Australia and holding a farewell ceremony with the Prime Minister (PM) Kevin Rudd, who announced that Australia will begin diplomatic relations with the Holy See for the first time.
When Pope Benedict entered the airport hanger, he was greeted with applause and the sight of Australian and Vatican flags.
The Holy Father thanked the Australian government and its authorities for their support of the World Youth Day activities.
“The Federal Government and the State Government of New South Wales, as well as the residents and the business community of Sydney, have been most cooperative in their support of World Youth Day.”
“An event of this kind requires an immense amount of preparation and organization, and I know that I speak on behalf of many thousands of young people when I express my appreciation and gratitude to you all.”
The Pontiff also thanked the pilgrims for having come to World Youth Day and wished them a safe journey home.
“The principal actors on the stage over these last few days, of course, have been the young people themselves,” he said.
“It is they who have made this a global ecclesial event, a great celebration of youth and a great celebration of what it is to be the Church, the people of God throughout the world, united in faith and love and empowered by the Spirit to bear witness to the risen Christ to the ends of the earth.”
“I thank them for coming. I know that the young people, their families and their sponsors have in many cases made great sacrifices to enable them to travel to Australia. For this the entire Church is grateful.”
The Holy Father then received an address from Kevin Rudd, Australian PM.
“Your Holiness, it feels very much that you have already become one with us… Indeed, you have become one of us.”
The PM also announced Australia’s first ambassador to the Holy See, former Australian deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer.
“Your Holiness, I am confident that Mr. Fischer, Ambassador Fischer as he will be, will discharge this position with dignity and enable Australia and the Holy See to be able to work together on the great challenges we face in the world,’ he said.
At the conclusion of the brief ceremony, the Pope climbed the stairs in his trademark red shoes to board the chartered Qantas 747, which will make a brief fuelling stop-over in Darwin before arriving in Rome.