Sydney, Australia, Jul 19, 2008 / 02:05 am (CNA) .- Over 180,000 pilgrims waving national flags and hoisting camping gear are processing through the streets of Sydney city today towards Southern Cross Precinct where the Final Mass for WYD08 will be held.
The six mile (10 kilometre) walk began early this morning in North Sydney where pilgrims walked over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, through Darling Harbour and the suburbs of Sydney to arrive at Randwick racecourse, within the Southern Cross Precinct. The trek took most of the youth around 3.5 hours.
WYD organisers said that the pilgrims will be â€świtnesses to Christ, to one another and also to the non-pilgrim community,â€ť as they walk to the racecourse.
Holding a four meter long Philippine flag walking along the Sydney Harbour Bridge between a group of about 12 pilgrims, Rissy, 21, said, â€śIt is such a humbling experience to be here. Philippines sent over 4,000 pilgrims to WYD08 and is the homeland to thousands of Australian-Filipino Catholics.
Lukasz Grabowski, 25, one of approximately 2,000 pilgrims from Poland, spoke to CNA before commencing the walk from North Sydney. He said that this was his second world Youth Day having attended the previous WYD in Colonge, Germany.
â€śI met my wife at the last WYD,â€ť he told CNA, â€śWe got married in April. We thought that either we could go to a beach for a week and lie there in the sun or go to WYD. We decided to come here for praise-giving to God. WYD is our honeymoon.â€ť
â€śI think it is fantastic for people to come together to experience the faith. It is so wonderful that we are all from different nations but we can come and pray together, sing together and be happy together.â€ť
Lukasz said he has lots of different jackets and piles of clothes to keep him warm during the sleepout.
â€śOr I could just dance in the light and mingle with the people!â€ť
A Vigil liturgy lead by the Pope will be held at the Southern Cross Precinct at 7 p.m. on Saturday. The largest concert of all the youth festival will precede the Vigil, at which bands and artists will give performances, continuing the festive atmosphere of the week.
The themes of the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit will be explored during the Evening Vigil, in preparation for the Final Mass with the Pope.
Pilgrims are expected to give testimonies of their WYD experiences before the Pope gives an address to the gathered pilgrims.
After the Vigil, over 250,00 pilgrims will spend the night under the stars of the Australian sky at Randwick Racecourse.
The Pope will spend the night at St. Maryâ€™s Cathedral.