Cardinal Pell credits friendship with Pope Benedict for Sydney WYD Choice

Sydney, Australia, Jan 17, 2008 / 04:32 am (CNA) .- Cardinal George Pell credited his two-decades-long friendship with Pope Benedict XVI for the success of his efforts to bring World Youth Day to Australia in 2008.

According to The Bulletin magazine, Cardinal Pell said that he admired his “personal friend…very much.” When asked if his friendship with the Pontiff helped him secure Sydney as the location for the youth event, Pell said it was “no disadvantage”. He also added that "it is impossible to know whether the bid would have been successful if it wasn’t for his Vatican connections."

Cardinal Pell also said he hoped World Youth Day would aid the Church in Australia in its efforts to reach the youth.

“I wouldn't be surprised if we don't have a bit of a bounce for a couple of years afterwards in terms of young men coming into the priesthood and young women to devote themselves to the Catholic Church and even the number of young Catholics who want to become Catholic teachers,” the cardinal said.

Though saying he would not call the state of Catholicism in Australia a crisis, Cardinal Pell said the country faced “a serious erosion of practice and to some extent an erosion of faith also.”

"World Youth Day is an attempt to do something about it,” he said.

More than 500,000 people are expected to attend Pope Benedict’s Mass at World Youth Day, including 250,000 people ages 16 to 35.