.- We have been invaded by joy,” Bishop Anthony Fisher, coordinator of World Youth Day 2008 told a press conference in Sydney this morning on the first day of World Youth Day celebrations.
The city will host the biggest, grandest Mass in Australia’s history said the Bishop, when Cardinal George Pell, Sydney Archbishop, presides over the World Youth Day opening mass held at Barangaroo at 4:30 p.m. this afternoon.
Bishop Fisher stated that 26 Cardinals, 400 bishops and 3,000-4,000 priests as well as thousands of international and local pilgrims are expected to attend the Mass. The grandeur of the opening Mass will only be surpassed by the closing Mass to celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI at Sydney’s Randwick racecourse this coming Sunday.
“It will be a spectacular Mass, a reverent Mass, and a beautiful Mass”, said Bishop Fisher.
A flag carrying ceremony at the Opening Mass will have 170 nations being represented by a pilgrim from each country bearing their national flag.
The themes of Cardinal Pell’s homily will centre around the image of the valley of dry bones depicted in today’s scripture, emphasizing the hope and promise of new life and resurrection in Christ, hinted Bishop Fisher.
Bishop Fisher also reported that World Youth Day registrations have exceeded 100,000 international registrations. 40,000 local Sydney residents are also registered to attend, which is twice the turnout per capita of young local Catholics as compared to when World Youth Day was held in Cologne and Toronto.
“Sydney airport is still operating at maximum capacity. Pilgrims who have arrived unregistered are now registering in their thousands,” said the Bishop.
He particularly applauded the contribution of Australian parishes and schools to help bring pilgrims from the third world to World Youth Day.
“This World Youth Day, there will be about 4,500 pilgrims from New Zealand, 2,000 from Papua New Guinea who sent only 10 pilgrims last WYD, and 1,000 from Tonga, and Samoa. For many of these pilgrims, this is their once ever chance of attending World Youth Day.”
The Opening Mass will be followed by an outdoor concert with performances from popular local and international bands and artists.