Pope to leave for World Youth Day on Saturday

Vatican City, Jul 11, 2008 / 09:51 am (CNA) .- Shepherd One, Pope Benedict XVI’s airplane will take off from Rome on Saturday at 10:00 a.m. bearing the Holy Father on his way to Australia for World Youth Day.

The Pope’s ninth trip outside of Italy will begin with a three day vacation before he appears at World Youth Day, the largest gathering of youth Australia has ever seen.

The flight from Rome will last 15 hours and 45 minutes and will arrive at Richmond airbase near Sydney at 3 p.m. local time on Sunday, July 13.

Descending from the aircraft, the Pope will be greeted on the tarmac by Kevin Rudd, prime minister of Australia, Cardinal George Pell, archbishop of Sydney, and other civil and religious authorities. He will then travel by car to the Kenthurst Study Centre, a private house for retreats and formation belonging to the Prelature of Opus Dei, where he will spend the time privately until the evening of Wednesday, July 16.

The Pope's visit to Australia will officially begin Thursday morning with a welcome ceremony in the presence of the authorities at Government House in Sydney, where he will deliver his first discourse. Following the ceremony he will travel to the Mary MacKillop Memorial Chapel for a moment of prayer, before moving on to Admiralty House for a meeting with the Australian prime minister.

Early on Thursday afternoon the Pope will go to Rose Bay Quay in Sydney where he will be greeted with a display of traditional Aboriginal dances and songs. He will then board the vessel "Sydney 2000" and joined by 12 other boats, Benedict XVI will cross the bay to the city's Bangaroo East Darling Harbour. The papal “boat-a-cade” will be welcomed by tens of thousands of young people.

Events scheduled for Friday, July 18 include an ecumenical meeting and an encounter with representatives of other religions in St. Mary's Cathedral of Sydney.

The most momentous events of the trip will be the Saturday evening prayer vigil and the Mass on Sunday which the Pope will preside over at the Randwick Racecourse. Organizers estimate that 225,000 people will attend the 23rd World Youth Day and are expecting around 500,000 for the closing Mass.