.- Preparations for the World Youth Day 2008 gathering in Sydney were discussed Monday at the National Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting in Baltimore.
In a presentation, Bishop Jaime Soto, auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Orange in California, informed the American bishops of progress being made toward the international youth event.
Currently 3,000 people are registered from the United States, though 12,000 total have expressed interest. More attendees were encouraged. “We expect around 18,000 but Sydney wants us to get to 40,000,” Bishop Soto said.
Australian organizers expect half a million total participants.
Bishop Soto said there would be some logistical differences between the Sydney meeting and past World Youth Days. The event at Cologne suffered problems due to the large distance between pilgrims' housing and event venues. Sydney has enough accommodations to handle the number of pilgrims.
There will be an exhibition area for youth to visit that will focus on religious vocations, though other organizations are welcome to exhibit as well.
Bishop Soto's presentation advised bishops how to help pilgrims benefit from the activities in Sydney. "Educational and catechetical formation beforehand is what makes World Youth Day effective," Bishop Soto said. He recommended beginning with the theme for World Youth Day 2008: "You have been given power from on high and you shall be my witnesses…"
He also suggested participants sign up for an "e-pilgrimage" at the web site http://www.wydusa.org .
All English-speaking bishops will be invited to be catechists at the Sydney event. A Saturday morning gathering is being planned to bring together both U.S. bishops and pilgrims for one event.