Largest Australian pilgrimage group ever departs for WYD

.- This week, some 2,200 Australian youth--the largest pilgrimage group in Australian history--will leave to join Pope Benedict XVI in Cologne, Germany for the 20th World Youth Day.

The youth will join Cardinal George Pell, three archbishops, 19 bishops and some 90 priests who are also traveling to Cologne.

The Australians will have a particular vested interest in the closing Mass, presided at by Pope Benedict during which he will announce whether Sydney will win its bid to host the 2008 World Youth Day celebration.

Well-known Australian Test Cricketer and World Youth Day Ambassador, Matthew Hayden has been encouraging the youth of his country to make the trip to Germany.

“For thousands of young people,” he said recently, “World Youth Day has been a life changing experience. It is not just a religious event, but the World Youth Day is an opportunity for youth to grow and be challenged on every level, morally, spiritually and culturally.

He added that he has “great optimism that the Cologne World Youth Day experience will have a positive bearing on many young Australians, our future leaders.”

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