Sunday, July 20, 2008

And finally

For the past week, pilgrims from all parts of the globe have been in Sydney for the celebration of World Youth Day. Throughout this week, they have been learning about faith, celebrating with friends old and new, and catching glimpses of the Holy Father as he arrived on a boat in Sydney Harbour and travelled the streets of the CBD in the popemobile.

Having witnessed the Stations of the Cross on Friday afternoon, and walked the pilgrimage on Saturday, they spent the night sleeping in the Randwick Racecourse property. This morning, as the first rays of dawn chased the darkness away, a colourful array of sleeping bags began slowly to come to life, revealing the more than 200,000 pilgrims who were wrapped within them, protected from the chill of the night air. By 7:30 am, morning rituals and movements of the masses were in full swing. Priests moved through a myriad of baricades and pathways toward their assigned places for the concelebration of the papal Mass, and preparations for Morning Prayer were being finalized.

At 8:00 am, the recitation of Morning Prayer was led by a group of Australian seminarians, and it wasn't long after this that the helicoper bearing the Holy Father arrived in the skies above Randwick. In the meanwhile, Sydneysiders who had also arrived in the early morning hours swelled the group to approximately 300,000 for the much-awaited closing Mass.

After circling above the crowd, the Holy Father touched down just outside the racecourse and boarded the waiting popemobile which then bore him, accompanied by his private secretary and the Cardinal Archbishop of Sydney, through the waiting crowd. They made two complete rounds of the stadium before arriving in the sacristy and the Mass began (right on schedule) a few moments after 10:00 am. Within the context of this mass which focused on the theme of the Holy Spirit, twenty-four youngsters from all parts of the world were confirmed by the Successor of Saint Peter himself.

  • Homily of the Holy Father at the closing Mass
Other highlights of this liturgy included a number of polynesians who presented the Book of Gospels and a variety of pilgrims from various countries who proclaimed the Prayers of the Faithful. This international liturgical gathering was concluded with the recitatation of the Angelus, before which the Holy Father presented a brief catechesis about invoking the prayer of the Mother of God.

In the closing moments of this celebration, the Holy Father announced that the next international gathering of World Youth Day pilgrims will take place in 2011 in Madrid, Spain.

  • Greeting of the Holy Father after the recitation of the Angelus

Following the completion of the Mass, the procession of young people moved away from Randwick. Having completed the formal events of this WYD gathering, this procession now speaks of the youth who will retun in the next days to their respective homes, continuing the procession of their lives, and discovering anew the seven-fold gifts of the Holy Spirit which call us each day to a deeper understanding of the power of Christ alive in our hearts.

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