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Vatican rebuff for Sydney's "premature" 2007 World Youth Day bid

The head of the Pontifical Council for the Laity's Youth Section has acted to suppress talk of which country is to host the 2007 World Youth Day by calling the public announcement of bids "inappropriate".

Australia is believed to be the leading contender, ahead of South Africa and Bolivia. Bishops Conferences in all three countries have publicly supported the bids.

The official who criticised the "premature" annoucements was Fr Francis Kohn, head of the youth section at the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the body charged with overseeing the event.

Last week an Italian Catholic youth website reported on Sydney's bid. The story was picked up by the Vatican's missionary news service, Fides, and the Italian news agency, ANSA. Reports also circulated that the bishops of South Africa and Bolivia have backed bids from their countries.

Last month NSW Opposition Leader John Brogden offered public backing to Sydney Archbishop Cardinal George Pell for Sydney's bid to stage the event. He called on Premier Bob Carr to lend bipartisan support.

"There is no better city to hold World Youth Day," said Mr Brogden. "Sydney was a fantastic host for the 2000 Olympics and the 2003 Rugby World Cup and would be a fantastic host for World Youth Day 2007."

Last year Cardinal Pell asked Sydney Catholic Youth Services Director Lyndon Cox to co-ordinate a consultation of parishes about inviting the Pope and the world's young Catholics to Sydney.

Mr Cox told the Catholic Weekly: "This has the potential to be the biggest event this country has ever seen, drawing more people than even the Olympics."

Cardinal Francis Stafford, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, has been aware of Sydney as a possible location for the international event since 2001, when a team of young Australians unofficially approached him with the concept.

World Youth Day in Toronto last year attracted about 500,000 Catholics from around the world. Up to a million pilgrims are expected to take part in Cologne where work is under way to organise activities, liturgies, housing and transportation for pilgrims.

Early public lobbying for World Youth Day prompts Vatican criticism (Catholic News Service 20/2/04)

Bishops back Sydney bid for World Youth Day 2007 (CathNews 1/12/03)
World Youth Day (Australian site)
World Youth Day Cologne 2005
World Youth Day (Catholic Weekly 11/1/04)
Sydney bids for World Youth Day (Catholic Weekly 7/12/03)
Sydney's bid to host WYD 2007 gets boost (CathNews 8/1/04)
Pontifical Council for the Laity

23 Feb 2004