.- Australian youth received news from their prime minister, John Howard, that the next World Youth Day is set to take place in Australia. Following a service at the Cologne Exhibition Center, attended by 1,600 Australian youth, organizers screened a videotaped message by the prime minister, expressing his pleasure that the next WYD will be in Australia. Rumors had been circulating to this effect for about the last six months.
The young Australians burst out into cheers and, after the prayer service, carried their celebration into the streets of Cologne.
Pope Benedict XVI is yet to confirm the news. He is expected to announce the location of the next WYD at the final mass, Aug. 21.
Speaking with CNA, Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney said, “The hope for all Australia is that the Holy Father will announce Sydney as the next host for World Youth day, but we still do not know; we must wait until Sunday.”
Bishop Fisher said the Australian delegation in Cologne this year represents the largest ever from that country to attend a World Youth Day. “The young people are very enthusiastic and are having a wonderful time. The German families have given them a tremendous welcome and they are thrilled. The reception we have received from German families has been quite edifying,” he added, noting the example of one family that opened its home to him. “After being with them for only three days, they wept with emotion as I left to come to Cologne,” he said.
Regarding to possibility that Mel Gibson might direct “The Passion of the Christ” in the streets of Sydney, Bishop Fisher said the actor had been contacted but that it was “too early to confirm anything” and that the necessary discussions would take place if and when the host city for WYD 2008 is confirmed.