An Inside the Vatican Magazine Newsflash
WORLD YOUTH DAY CONCLUDES IN FINE FASHION
By Andrew Rabel
After week long celebrations, the final Mass of World Youth Day 2008 was celebrated by Pope Benedict in extraordinary fashion with the attendance a little over 400,000 persons at Randwick Racecourse and Centennial Park, which was a splash of color with the flags of people from over 100 countries represented.
This means that the 23rd World Youth Day had the smallest crowd attendance in another country. (Previously that record was set by Denver in 1993 with a tally of 500,000 people, and there are no recorded figures for Buenos Aires in 1987.)
However, in the opinion of many overseas journalists this was the best organized, and certainly the most innovative, being held in winter among other reasons. According to Fr Matthew Gamber SJ of Chicago, "I have been to several WYD’s, and this was by far the best. Cologne a few years ago was a bit of a disaster in terms of logistics".
This year’s event was completely 21st century in the online nature of registrations and accreditation of other professionals, and before the event Cardinal Pell had launched http://www.xt3.com, a way WYD pilgrims could socially interact with each other, to which thousands had signed up for in just a couple of weeks.
The Stations of the Cross held through the streets of Sydney at some of its prominent landmarks, was for many the highlight of the six day event also drawing strong accolades in comparison to previous ones at other WYD’s.
Today’s Mass began in a spectacular way with helicopter fly over by the Pope and then a motorcade in his Popemobile.
This took place after 200,000 people slept the night out in the cold following the Evening Vigil at the racecourse.
Pope Benedict preached in his homily a challenge to all the young people there, "What will you leave to the next generation? Are you building your lives on firm foundations, building something that will endure? Are you living your lives in a way that opens up Space for the Spirit in the midst of a world that wants to forget God, or even rejects him in the name of a falsely-conceived freedom?...What difference will you make?"
Later on he said to the youth to tremendous applause, "The Church especially needs the gift of young people, all young people. She needs to grow in the power of the Spirit who even now gives joy to your youth and inspires you to serve the Lord with gladness. Open your hearts to that power! I address this plea in a special way to those of you whom the Lord is calling to the priesthood and consecrated life. Do not be afraid to say "yes" to Jesus, to find your joy in doing his will, giving yourself completely to the pursuit of holiness, and using all your talents in the service of others!"
The highlight of the Mass was the Holy Father confirming 24 people - 14 Australians and 10 internationals, something never done in any previous World Youth Day.
The Holy Father wore for the Mass also the traditional looking pallium he has been sporting in Rome for the last couple of months, and distributed communion to kneeling communicants on the tongue. Again another first for a Pope doing this in a country outside Italy. (In 1970 when Paul VI visited Australia, newer postures for receiving communion had not been introduced yet).
Aside from an Aboriginal dance early in the Mass, the liturgy had a distinctly traditional feel to it, with both Latin and English used. The Pater Noster was sung by Benedict in Latin.
At the end of the Mass Cardinal George Pell thanked Pope Benedict for hosting World Youth Day in Australia saying, "Your Holiness... just a few days after your election as Bishop of Rome, you said that the historic days of April 2005 taught us that 'the Church is not old and immobile; she is young.'
"So we give thanks for World Youth Day, which is a gift for the Church as a whole, for both those old and young. At World Youth Day, the Church appears as she truly is, alive with energetic energy".
During the Angelus address Pope Benedict revealed that the next World Youth Day would be held in Madrid in 2011, to thunderous cheers from the thousands of Spanish pilgrims.
A few hours after the end of proceedings, rain started to fall in Sydney which had stayed away for the whole of the events. This prompted a nonreligious TV anchor to ask, "One would have thought there was a special plan in this". To which a journalist replied, "Well that is something worth thinking about".
N.B. The previous evening, a night-time Randwick Racecourse was transformed into a sea of colour and candle light, as the Holy Father called on the faithful to hear Christ's great promise and pray together, as his Apostles did.
"Tonight, we do the same. Gathered before our much-travelled Cross and the Icon of Mary and under the magnificent constellation of the Southern Cross, we pray," he said
"We recall our parents and grandparents who walked alongside us when we, as children, were taking our first steps in our pilgrim journey of faith.
"Now many years later, you have gathered as young adults with the
Successor of Peter. I am filled with deep joy to be with you."
The Pope also spoke about the role of the Holy Spirit in the Augustinian tradition. He said, "He noted that the two words 'Holy' and 'Spirit' refer to what is divine about God; in other words what is shared by the Father and the Son - their communion."
The crowd went completely silent when later on the Blessed Sacrament was brought out for adoration, as they were for the Consecration at Mass the next day.