Australians delighted at 2008 World Youth Day

22nd August 2005, Comments 0 comments

22 August 2005, SYDNEY - Australia's 5 million Roman Catholics rejoiced Monday at the news that Sydney would host World Youth Day in July 2008.

22 August 2005

SYDNEY - Australia's 5 million Roman Catholics rejoiced Monday at the news that Sydney would host World Youth Day in July 2008.

Pope Benedict XVI made the announcement at the culmination of this year's six-day gathering for Catholics aged 16 to 30 in Cologne, Germany.

Cardinal George Pell, archbishop of Sydney, said that it would be only the fourth papal visit in the nation's history.

"I hope it will strengthen the faith. I hope it will reinforce all those values that make Australian society good, like social justice, solidarity, family life, respect for life," Cardinal Pell told Australia's ABC Radio from Cologne.

Sydney priest Father John Usher said that hosting what some have called the 'Catholic Olympics' would reinvigorate Australia's largest denomination.

"There's a major commitment around the world to involve young people in the life of the church and to experience a lot of God in a way that sometimes we think they are stepping back from," Father Usher said. "This has been shown around the world in other capitals like Cologne at the moment, that these thousands of young people are making a commitment to their religion, to their faith and to their God."

Previously, the pope singled out Australia as a country where Catholicism is in retreat faster than perhaps anywhere else in the world. Only about 7 per cent of Catholics in their 20s regularly attend Mass. Seminaries have had to close because so few men want to train as priests.

World Youth Day is held every two or three years. The Cologne event was attended by up to 1 million people from 193 countries.

Up to 150,000 people are expected to attend the opening Mass on July 15, 2008, at the Olympic stadium in Sydney. As many as 500,000 people could be there for the final Mass, making it the largest public gathering in Australia since the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

New South Wales Tourism Minister Sandra Nori said that World Youth Day could bring more visitors to Sydney than the Olympics.

"That, of course, will bring its own economic benefits," she said. "These young people will also in large proportion travel before and afterwards around Australia. They'll be repeat visitors later on in life. A lot of global profile for Sydney because this event is huge."

Prime Minister John Howard welcomed the winning bid, saying it was "a great compliment to Australia, a great compliment to Sydney and very importantly a great compliment to Australia's Catholic community".

Because of its reliance on the infrastructure built for what then International Olympic Committee chief Juan Antonio Samaranch called "the greatest Games ever", Sydney is expected to spend only half as much as Cologne did on hosting the event.

There is also confidence that World Youth Day, an institution since the first gathering in 1984 in Rome, can be turned into a money-spinner.

Chris Brown, head of tourism industry lobby group the Tourism and Transport Forum, said, "Hopefully, we'll all end up a little richer - financially and spiritually."

Australian-raised actor-director Mel Gibson has been asked to recreate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in the streets of Sydney. Gibson, a graduate of Sydney's renowned National Institute for Dramatic Arts, would put on the Stations of the Cross, as he did in his hugely successful 2004 film 'The Passion of the Christ'.

The Stations of the Cross would begin with the Last Supper, staged at the Opera House on the harbour, and move to the grounds of St. Mary's Cathedral for the Crucifixion.

Cardinal Pell confirmed an approach had been made to Gibson, a United States resident.

"He might well be attracted," Pell said. "I think his devotion to Christ is very real."


Subject: German news

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