.- Elated Australians joined their equally excited Cardinal Sunday, as Pope Benedict XVI confirmed the much-speculated reports that Sydney had indeed been chosen as the site for the 2008 World Youth Day.
The Holy Father made the announcement, according to the tradition, at the closing Mass for this year’s World Youth Day celebration in Cologne, Germany--attended by almost 1 million young Catholics.
Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, was quoted in the Australian saying that only the “scrooges” would be complaining about the Pope’s visit--the first papal visit to Australia in 13 years--and called it an “enormous privilege.”
According to the Australian, Cardinal Pell boasted over what he called “a coherent and well-prepared bid” which had “tremendous help from the federal and state governments."
"It's certainly a Catholic celebration”, he added, “but will be open to anyone, especially young people who don't have a settled core of religious conviction and are looking for something to hold on to."
Some 5 million Catholics make their home in Australia, making Christianity the country’s largest religion.
Because of Sydney’s somewhat difficult location, the Cardinal said that the 2008 turnout probably wouldn’t be as large as that in Cologne. "There's an immense Catholic population in Europe who can get in a car or an old bus and come along," he said. "The difficulty in Australia will be the money for the airfares."
Reportedly though, Cardinal Pell has already spoken to Australian authorities about softening visa requirements for some visitors. Many Third World residents were turned away from Cologne because of stiff travel policies.
"We've spoken to the Australian Government initially”, he said, “and the starting point is that visitors will be treated similarly to how visitors to the Olympic Games were.”
"It's an important matter."
It is also rumored that native Aussie and actor Mel Gibson will be asked to perform the Stations of the Cross at the event. Gibson recently produced the blockbuster “Passion of the Christ” movie.
Some 2500 Australians in Cologne cheered the news last night excitedly, waving national flags.
The theme for the 2008 World Youth Day is slated as "take up your cross and follow me", repeating the words of Jesus in the Gospels when asked how to attain eternal life.