Benedict bids farewell to Australia, PM announces first ambassador

Sydney, Australia, Jul 20, 2008 / 11:53 pm (CNA) .- Pope Benedict departed Australia for Rome today after a busy eight-day stay. The Holy Father bid adieu by blessing Australia and holding a farewell ceremony with the Prime Minister (PM) Kevin Rudd, who announced that Australia will begin diplomatic relations with the Holy See for the first time.

When Pope Benedict entered the airport hanger, he was greeted with applause and the sight of Australian and Vatican flags.

The Holy Father thanked the Australian government and its authorities for their support of the World Youth Day activities.

“The Federal Government and the State Government of New South Wales, as well as the residents and the business community of Sydney, have been most cooperative in their support of World Youth Day.”

“An event of this kind requires an immense amount of preparation and organization, and I know that I speak on behalf of many thousands of young people when I express my appreciation and gratitude to you all.”

The Pontiff also thanked the pilgrims for having come to World Youth Day and wished them a safe journey home.

“The principal actors on the stage over these last few days, of course, have been the young people themselves,” he said.

“It is they who have made this a global ecclesial event, a great celebration of youth and a great celebration of what it is to be the Church, the people of God throughout the world, united in faith and love and empowered by the Spirit to bear witness to the risen Christ to the ends of the earth.”

“I thank them for coming. I know that the young people, their families and their sponsors have in many cases made great sacrifices to enable them to travel to Australia. For this the entire Church is grateful.” 

The Holy Father then received an address from Kevin Rudd, Australian PM.

“Your Holiness, it feels very much that you have already become one with us… Indeed, you have become one of us.”

The PM also announced Australia’s first ambassador to the Holy See, former Australian deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer.

“Your Holiness, I am confident that Mr. Fischer, Ambassador Fischer as he will be, will discharge this position with dignity and enable Australia and the Holy See to be able to work together on the great challenges we face in the world,’ he said.

At the conclusion of the brief ceremony, the Pope climbed the stairs in his trademark red shoes to board the chartered Qantas 747, which will make a brief fuelling stop-over in Darwin before arriving in Rome.