.- An audience of half a billion tuned in to watch the performance that involved around 80 performers and was played out by young people at six major venues around Sydney. Over 270,000 international and local spectators also made their way to points around the city to watch the Stations of the Cross live and on big screen televisions.
The first station held on the steps of St Mary’s Cathedral was attended by Pope Benedict XVI who led the prayer.
“Make us generous and insightful as we try to walk in your footsteps,” the Holy Father prayed.
The Pope then watched the procession on television from St. Mary’s Cathedral Crypt.
The procession moved through the Domain, a large open space in Sydney; the Art Gallery of NSW; and the Sydney Opera House, where the actor playing Jesus, Alfio Stuto 27, received the crown of thorns. At Darling Harbour, the stations were played out on a wharf built across the small bay specifically for the purpose before travelling by ferry to Barangaroo.
A somber and reverent mood permeated the crowds, previously filled with cheering and chanting.
“It is truly a different mood here. Sydney has taken on a somber, more reflective mood,” said Fr Mark Podesta WYD08 spokesman, “The pilgrims are recognizing the gravity of the passion of the Christ.”
Camillus Okane, a 21-year-old university student, was chosen to do play the role of Thomas.
“It was a touching experience, in a special way to see the reactions of the people, some of them were crying, others were praying. It made an impact,” he said.
The director of the Stations of the Cross, Fr Franco Cavarra, has been preparing this presentation since December when a group of young people were chosen to play the roles.
Over 90 wardrobes were created for twenty people, three months prior to the presentation.
The dramatic highlight was the crucifixion of Jesus in a 3.5 meter (11.48 ft.) cross, upon the elevated stage at Barangaroo.
The performance concluded when Jesus’ body was carried from the cross and through the crowd watching at Barangaroo.
“It was a fairly realistic representation of what actually happened,” said Rachel, a local pilgrim from Sydney.
“It felt very solemn,” she continued. “The music was very suitable. Overall, everyone paid a lot of attention to it.”
After the Stations of the Cross performance, Pope Benedict met with a group of disadvantaged youth at the University of Notre Dame in Sydney.