Over 4,000 U.S. pilgrims gather for inaugural Mass

Sydney, Australia, Jul 20, 2008 / 07:41 am (CNA) .- The largest ever gathering of U.S. pilgrims at a WYD festival was held yesterday morning at The Domain, one of Sydney’s landmark parks for WYD08.   In his homily, Cardinal Francis George spoke of the freedom in surrendering to Christ.

An initiative of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the gathering involved a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Francis George, OMI, President of the USCCB, and attended by approximately 35 bishops, 40 priests and approximately 4,500 U.S. pilgrims.

Music for the Mass was led by musicians from Oregon Catholic Press and World Library Publications.

Cardinal George’s homily focused on the Church’s mission and the freedom gained in surrendering to Christ.

“The mission of the Church is to help people be free,” he told the pilgrims.

To illustrate his point, he retold the story of a visit he made to Greenland in the early 1970’s. “All the Eskimos,” he explained to the congregation, “were Catholic, due to the success of missionaries.”

He was told by an Eskimo about how her life before having known Jesus Christ was based on fear and taboo. “To hear it told to us, that Christ has conquered all…that we do not have to be afraid, although there are evils, they were all conquered by Christ… made me feel like I was free, free in Christ,” she said the cardinal.

“We are free, free in Christ,” said the cardinal to the people.

He urged the pilgrims not to be afraid, as the disciples were after the death of Jesus Christ.

“We should ask as we walk along our path to freedom, who is walking with us on our way? We should conquer the fears in our lives,” said the cardinal, giving examples such as fear of war and economic turmoil.

“Jesus Christ gives us his peace and his freedom.”

He reminded the pilgrims to be grateful to the friends of family members who brought them to Christ.

“Look for what is true,” urged Cardinal George. “God made us smart. He wants us to search for the truth and to work together to achieve it.”

He went on to say that we have discovered that “Truth is a person, and the person has a name, that is Jesus.”

“Once we discover that truth is a person, it is not enough just to surrender your mind, you must surrender your heart, your emotions, your will, your body, your soul, your entire person.”

“You surrender to a person because Jesus surrendered himself to you. Everyone who falls in love knows that. Every good wife or husband knows that, every priest who is married to the Church knows that too.”

“If you are going to meet the truth in a person, the only response possible is total self sacrifice.”

“The irony, mystery or paradox of the Gospel truth, is that in that surrender, you become free.”

“Search for the Truth, surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ, and in that receive your freedom back as a gift,” said the cardinal, quoting Pope Benedict XVI.

Antonio, a U.S. pilgrim who came with a contingent from the Neocatechumenal Way spoke to CNA after the Mass.

“The homily clarified to me my mission in this world… which is to pronounce JC to everybody, and how I see Jesus Christ in my life, to translate this faith to my sons and to my family and my faith, with my life.”

“It’s wonderful today. The homily really taught Jesus Christ guides me to live a free life in the Catholic faith.”

Stephanie, 17, from Fresno, California, was attending her first World Youth Day. She said her highlight was seeing the Pope and meeting people from all over the world. It was a wonderful experience."