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Wednesday, 16 July 2008 - Apostolic Journey to Sydney on the Occasion of the 23rd World Youth Day

Sydney, Australia

Onthe 15th of July, Cardinal George Pell gave a message of welcome and hope to an energized crowd gathered together for the opening Mass of World Youth Day.Before the Mass got under way at Barangaroo today, the some 150,000 youth were greeted by warm weather in Sydney and a welcome event celebrating indigenous culture. And the young people got a text message from none other than Benedict XVI.

The Pope's message said: "Young friends, God & his people expect much from u, because u have within u the Father's supreme gift: the Spirit of Jesus -- BXVI."

After a 168-flag procession and the entrance of the youth day cross and icon, Cardinal Pell welcomed the international pilgrims in four languages.

His greeting was reciprocated with wild applause and accompanied by chants and cheers similar to those used for papal receptions. Cardinal Pell was joined by 26 other cardinals, 400 bishops, a 300-person youth choir, and an 80-piece orchestra. He had told members of the media earlier this week that he was looking forward to celebrating the biggest Mass of his life.

Cardinal Pell stressed that his first priority was not those who are already strong in the faith, but "welcoming and encouraging anyone, anywhere who regards himself or herself as lost, in deep
distress, with hope diminished or even exhausted."

He affirmed that the causes of any personal wounds -- whether alcohol, drugs, family break-ups or even the loneliness of success -- were "quite secondary" compared to Christ's call to all those who are suffering.

"Christ is calling you home; to love, healing and community," he said. He encouraged hope for "all of you who are tempted to say 'our hope is gone, we are as good as dead.'"

"We Christians believe in the power of the Spirit to convert and change persons away from evil to good; from fear and uncertainty to faith and hope," Cardinal Pell added. "Our task is to be open to the Spirit, to allow the God of surprises to act through us. Whatever our situation, we must pray for an openness of heart, for a willingness to take the next step, even if we are fearful of venturing too much further.

"If we take God's hand, he will do the rest. Trust is the key. God will not fail us."

On the 17th of July 2008, after celebrating Mass in private at Sydney's Cathedral House, The Holy Pontiff Benedict XVI travelled to Government House, an elegant neo-Gothic structure
built between 1837 and 1845, where the welcome ceremony took place.   The Holy Father was welcomed in the gardens by Michael Jeffery, governor general of Australia, and by Kevin Rudd, prime minister. Also present were political and civil authorities, and a number of prelates of the Church in Australia.

In his address the Holy Father asked what it is that motivates so many young people to undertake such a long journey in order to participate in World Youth Day. "They are", he explained, "eager to take part in an event which brings into focus the high ideals that inspire them, and they return home filled with hope and renewed in their resolve to contribute to the building of a better world. For me it is a joy to be with them, to pray with them and to celebrate the Eucharist with them. World Youth Day fills me with confidence for the future of the Church and the future of our world". 

Referring then to the "the wonder of God's creation" in Australia, the Holy Father pointed out that the country "is making a serious commitment to address its responsibility to care for the natural environment". Likewise it" has generously supported international peace-keeping operations, contributing to conflict resolution in the Pacific, in Southeast Asia and elsewhere". 

After recalling how the theme of this World Youth Day is inspired by the third Person of the Blessed Trinity, Benedict XVI expressed the hope that "the Holy Spirit will bring spiritual renewal to this land, to the Australian people, to the Church throughout Oceania and indeed to the ends of the earth". 

Following the welcome ceremony, the Pope visited the Mary MacKillop Memorial, site of the tomb of the first Australian blessed who also co-founded the Sisters of St. Joseph. He then
went on to Admiralty House where he paid a courtesy visit to Governor General Michael Jeffery and held a meeting with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

At 2.35 p.m. Australian time today, the Holy Father travelled to Rose Bay Quay in Sydney where he was greeted by elders of Australia's Aboriginal peoples. During the ceremony, songs were sung in the local Aboriginal dialect and in other languages of the indigenous peoples of Oceania. 

The Pope then boarded the ship "Sydney 2000" to cover the six nautical miles separating him from Bangaroo East Darling Harbour where he would be welcomed by thousands of young participants in World Youth Day. Benedict XVI, accompanied by Cardinals Tarcisio Bertone, George Pell and Stanislaw Rylko, stood at the prow of the vessel on the second deck, while the first
and third decks were occupied by young people waving WYD flags. 

Benedict XVI praised "the majestic splendour of Australia's natural beauty" which evokes "a profound sense of awe. It is as though one catches glimpses of the Genesis creation story: light and darkness, the sun and the moon, the waters, the earth, and living creatures; all of which are 'good' in God's eyes".  

Following the ceremony, the Holy Father travelled by popemobile to Cathedral House, where he spent the night. Along his route he was greeted by many people gathered around Sydney Opera House, symbol of the city and, since 2007, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


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