Cardinal says World Youth Day ’08 plans well underway

Sydney, Australia, Oct 17, 2006 / 12:00 am (CNA) .- Plans for World Youth Day in July 2008 are going well, reports Cardinal George Pell of Sydney in his recent column, published in Sydney’s Sunday Telegraph.

Celebrations promise to be bigger than the Sydney Olympics as about half a million people will attend the final Mass on July 20, he said. Pope Benedict XVI, 500 bishops and thousands of priests are expected to con-celebrate the Mass.

World Youth Day ‘08 will open on the Tuesday prior, with the Pope’s arrival scheduled at Sydney Harbour for Thursday night.

In addition to the traditional catechism sessions, the Way of the Cross is expected to be re-enacted by young Australians through the streets of Sydney on Friday afternoon.

Between 80,000 and 120,000 overseas visitors are expected to attend. Given the high cost of travel, the cardinal said negotiations have begun with various airlines to obtain significant reductions in the price of the air tickets.

Many pilgrims around the world have already started saving and fundraising in their parishes and communities. The Catholic Bank in Germany has even offered increased rates of interest for pilgrims.

Ten days ago a three-member Vatican delegation visited Sydney to monitor preparations.  According to the cardinal, “they were well pleased by progress so far and pleasantly surprised by the level of support outside the Catholic community and especially from the Federal and N.S.W. Governments.”

If the website is any indication, the world’s youth are very interested in the event. The site has received 9.3 million hits since it was launched on Palm Sunday, April 9, reported the cardinal. There are about 50,000 hits to the website per day, he added.

The most hits are from Germany (2.2 million), followed by Australia (1.67 million), the United States (1.51 million) and Italy (670,000).

More than 10,000 young people are registered to receive regular updates through World Youth Day ‘08’s ePILGRIMAGE newsletter.  For more information on World Youth Day ’08 or to sign up for ePILGRIMAGE information, go to www.wyd08.org.