Two major symbols of World Youth Day, the World Youth Day Cross and and the Sacred Icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary, have continued to travel across Australia in preparation for the worldwide gathering of youth in Sydney next year.
Having come to Australia in July by way of Papua New Guinea and New Zealand, the two items arrived Saturday in Wilcannia, a small aboriginal community in the New South Wales province. The local bishop Chris Toohey and members of the Journey of the Cross and the Icon national team accompanied the symbols.
In 1994 Pope John Paul II gave the cross to the 250,000 youths at the World Youth Day in Denver to take it to the whole world. The cross has since traveled to more than one hundred countries and all the continents except Antarctica. In 2003, Pope John Paul II gave pilgrims the Sacred Icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary to accompany the cross.
In Wilcannia a procession brought the symbols to a city park for a ceremony. Residents of various religious affiliations gathered. Some people touched or kissed the cross and the sacred icon after passing through a smothering fire and smoke, the aboriginal rite of welcome and protection against evil spirits.