.- In what American organizers claim is the largest international delegation to World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, the U.S. will send 15,000 young people to the July event.
The pilgrims, most of whom are in their late teens and young adult years, are traveling to Australia in 1,140 groups of various sizes, with the largest being 520 people. They will be joined by 50 U.S. bishops, including Cardinal Francis George, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
For the first time at World Youth Day, the USCCB will sponsor a Mass for all U.S. groups in Sydney on Saturday morning July 19, in which Cardinal George will preside and deliver a homily. Other U.S. bishops will concelebrate the Mass, after which they will meet with pilgrims from their dioceses.
Several young people will have special roles during World Youth Day. Armando Cervantes, from the Diocese of Orange, will be one of twelve people from around the world selected to have lunch with Pope Benedict on July 18 in Sydney. Juan Martinez, from the Diocese of Austin, will be confirmed by Pope Benedict during the closing Mass on Sunday, July 20.
Leonardo Jaramillo from the Archdiocese of Atlanta and Annalee Moyer from the Archdiocese of Washington have been selected to be part of the two-hundred-member International Liturgy Group, which represents all World Youth Day pilgrims. Members take lead roles in World Youth Day events, including the papal ceremonies and liturgies.
“I am truly blessed by this opportunity to experience the universal Church in such a unique way with my peers from around the world,” said Moyer, according to a USCCB press release.
Organizers estimate about 100,000 young people from Australia and 125,000 people from abroad will attend the week-long event later this month.