Archbishop of Sydney Cardinal George Pell welcomed all to World Youth Day celebrations at a press conference this morning, one day before the official proceedings begin.
"World Youth Day will be a very pleasant surprise for Sydneysiders," said the cardinal. "One central aim of World Youth Day is to present the person and the teachings of Jesus Christ certainly to young Catholics, majority of young people who are Christians and especially to those young Australians who don't know much about religion and are searching for something to hold onto."
Also present Philip Wilson Archbishop of Adelaide, and President of the Catholic Bishops Conference who relayed that communities across Australia who had received pilgrims “felt strongly blessed themselves.”
“These experiences, where there is personal contact between the pilgrims and the members of the local church are very important,” said Archbishop Wilson.
“It allows people to see that the vision of the church is reflected in so many cultures and among many people and for people to discover the unity of life and community that goes beyond the things that separate them.”
When questioned about the challenges confronting the church’s ministry towards the youth, Cardinal Pell said that two significant relevant issues face the Australian church today.
“Firstly, there is the Australian temptation that you can live a good and happy life without God. The second challenge revolves around the concept of sexuality, marriage and family.”
Another pressing challenge is that of youth suicide said Cardinal Pell, where Australia has one of the highest young male suicide rates in the world.
“Suicide is a danger sign, and a great paradox,” said Cardinal Pell, particularly in a country such as Australia… our young people need faith, hope and love.”
WYD has also given the Australian Catholic Church a better understanding of how to meet the needs of the Catholic youth said Cardinal Pell.
The establishment of “XT3,” an online social networking website allowing pilgrims is just one of the initiatives put in place to cater to the pilgrims attending WYD.
“All of us in Australia have realised that WYD is an opportunity for us to do more, that in itself it’s not enough, more needs to be done.” said Archbishop Wilson.
“We hope that this will be a moment of new energy and new pulse of love among young people and provide us an opportunity to do more for the youth.”
World Youth Day officially commences Tuesday July 15 with an opening Mass to be presided over by Cardinal Pell at Barangaroo at 4:30pm.