Friday, July 18, 2008

Blessing landmarks

In 2002, the Stations of the Cross celebrated at WYD in Toronto changed forever the imagry of one of the major downtown streets of that city. University Avenue, which is famous as part of the business district of one of the world's busiest cities, was transformed into the route for the celebration of the Way of the Cross, and since that time, places such as Osgoode Hall, Sick Children's Hospital, Queens Park and the Royal Ontario Museum will always be associated in the minds of some with the major moments in the passion, suffering and death of Christ.

This ultimate gesture of self-giving was re-enacted this afternoon in the heart of the Central Business District of Sydney, half a world away. Like Toronto, some of the major sites of the downtown area of this city will from this day forward also carry different implications and memories for those who were present for the Via crucis which was enacted here this afternoon.

Shortly after 3:00 pm local time, the Holy Father himself began the Stations of the Cross with a prayer which he uttered on the front stairs of Saint Mary's Cathedral. In the fore-court of the Cathedral, the first station - Jesus celebrating the Last Supper with his disciples was enacted. From there, the procession moved to the adjacent park known as the Domain for the second station: The Agony in the Garden, and then to the steps of the NSW Art Gallery for the enactment of Jesus before the Sanhedrin.

Other sites in the CBD which hosted the stations of the cross include the Sydney Opera House, Darling Harbour and Barangaroo, the waterfront property which has recently been transfromed from a series of warehouses to an open park.

Innovations added this year included transporting Jesus with the cross by boat through the harbour from the Sydney Opera House to Darling Harbour, passing beneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge. In a real sense, the Bridge which spans the harbour will now be associated with the divine healing offered by Jesus as he walked and suffered along the Via crucis. Like him, it stretches its arms from one bank to the other, as a sign of love and welcome for all visitors, and as a sign of mercy and forgiveness that we are all called to live.

After the completion of WYD, Barangaroo will be transformed into a series of urban condominiums, but no matter what shape they take, this area will always be remembered by some as the place where the final hours of Jesus' life were enacted for all the world to see.

The dramatic enactments of World Youth Day invite the youth of the world to realize that Jesus' suffering was not a fable which belongs in books, but rather that it is a living reality that is lived each day of our lives. Having completed the catechetical sessions, and witnessed the Way of the Cross, the youth will partake tomorrow in a pilgrimage which will assemble them for a special vigil tomorrow night, and for the final Mass which will be celebrated by His Holiness at Randwick Racecourse.

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