Sunday, July 13, 2008

Verso l'alto

Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Australia today, and although he is scheduled to take a few days' rest before officially saying 'G'day' to the pilgrims who are gathering here in Sydney for the World Youth Day celebrations, there is already mounting excitement evident in the streets of this down under city.

This morning, we attended the celebration of Mass at the church of Saint Columba and the Holy Souls in Leichhardt, and heard about the plans being made there to welcome some of the pilgrims who will be arriving tomorrow. Some of the parishioners from this church will also be boarding buses early in the morning next Sunday to make their way to the Randwick Racecourse for the closing Mass which will be celebrated by the Holy Father.

This afternoon, we travelled into the city to visit some of the sites which are being transformed for the WYD festivities. Sydney's famous Opera House, along with the Botanic Gardens and the section just west of the Rocks known as Barangaroo will be closed off to public traffic beginning tomorrow evening until Friday night so that the WYD Youth Festival can take place there.
One of the stops along our visit this afternoon was the Cathedral of Saint Mary here in Sydney, where preparations are in high gear for the WYD celebrations. A new painting of Our Lady of the Southern Cross now graces the walls of the Cathedral. It is a very life-like rendition of the Madonna and Child commissioned especially for the WYD2008 celebration. In addition, parts of the Cathedral have been transformed to display special exhibits of Blessed Mary MacKillop, Australia's own servant to the poor whose tomb can be found in North Sydney; and Blessed Pier Giorgio Frasatti, whose body was transported to Sydney and is now on display for the next week within the Cathedral.

On Tuesday afternoon at 4:30 pm, Cardinal George Pell will preside at the official opening Mass which is scheduled to take place at Barangaroo. In anticipation of this celebration, pilgrims who have begun arriving in Sydney since last week are gathering in Hyde Park and around Saint Mary's Cathedral, effectively filling the city with the beginnings of contageous joy, music and laughter. I'm sure that the natives in this city aren't sure what's about to hit them.

In anticipation of his arrival in Australia, the Holy Father issued a special message yesterday which he has addressed to the people of this country, thanking them for all the work they have done to prepare for WYD. He has dubbed Australia the 'great southern land of the Holy Spirit' and has invited young people from all points of the globe to join him for this celebration.

Stay tuned for more information about this awesome pilgrimage ...

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