Pilgrims for World Youth Day have all gone their separate ways with the close of the international Catholic youth gathering. Cardinal George Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, took time this past Sunday to reflect on the hospitality of Sydney residents, the enthusiasm of the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims, and the “genuine” prayer surrounding the event. With all of this, he said “This is a good time to be Catholic.”
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, he said that “all Sydney has taken the pilgrims into their hearts.” The cardinal observed how Sydney organizations, such as an Islamic school which provided accommodation for an American group, had helped visiting pilgrims.
Praising the “almost perfect” weather, he then declared that the police had done “a great job” and used “common sense and tact” in maintaining order at the events.
The cardinal said that some 500,000 people had shown “wild enthusiasm” during Pope Benedict XVI’s arrival at Sydney Harbor on Thursday and during the Stations of the Cross on Friday. “The prayer was genuine too,” he said. “With immense crowds you can feel the silence of prayer.”
He described in particular the Thursday welcoming ceremony for the Pope.
“Sydney harbor in the sunshine is a magnificent sight,” he recounted. “Vancouver or Cape Town might be sight rivals but as the flotilla of ships carried the Pope to the official welcome, the foreign visitors commented that few cities could offer a comparable approach.
“A young aboriginal man, feeling cold in his traditional dress, explained his story to the Holy Father as we passed huge crowds at Mrs. Macquarie’s Point, Farm Cove and the majestic Opera House.”
Cardinal Pell said he would always remember the World Youth Day Sydney song and also the miles of excited young adults who lined the route of the Pope’s motorcade.
“Nearly everyone near the route seemed to have new cameras, enabling them to check success or failure immediately,” he wrote in the Sunday Telegraph. “A stray flag ruined the hard work of one young man on his mate’s shoulders. I saw another exulting because he had succeeded.”
“This is a good time to be Catholic,” the cardinal said. “They are days to remember.”