Pope vows to follow WYD cross to Sydney

Benedict XVI yesterday sent a towering wooden pilgrim's cross on a two-year, cross-continental journey that will conclude in Sydney in 2008 with the promise he would be in Australia to celebrate World Youth Day.

On the steps of St Peter's Square in Rome, after the traditional Palm Sunday Mass, the pope symbolically handed over the Cross and Icon to a group of young Australian Catholics to mark Sydney's role in hosting the festival in July 2008, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

Sydney's Cardinal George Pell, NSW Premier Morris Iemma and Malcolm Turnbull, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, were also present at the celebration.

Organisers expect the event will bring 500,000 pilgrims to Sydney, including 130,000 international visitors. The week-long celebration will include a passion play and pilgrims' walk culminating in an overnight vigil before the closing mass, the first to be held in Australia by the pope.

Despite concerns he might not be able to make the trip, Pope Benedict, who will by then be 81, has confirmed to Cardinal Pell his intention to travel, said Bishop Anthony Fisher, the event's chief organiser.

In briefings to the Vatican at the weekend, Premier Iemma said the State Government would offer $20 million worth of facilities and logistical help, including transport, security, police and medical services. The Sydney diocese has not challenged estimates the event will cost more than $80 million.

To accommodate Sydney's largest influx of visitors since the Olympics, the Sydney Convention and Visitors Bureau has booked every hotel room in the city. The Catholic Church is organising family billets and school halls to help house pilgrims.

Almost one-third of Sydney's population of 4 million people was Catholic, making Sydney the mother see of Australia, the Premier said. As such, it would warmly embrace the pilgrims.

"The church plays a large and indispensable role in providing vital social services for the poor and the marginalised as well as a ceaseless voice in the promotion of human dignity," he said.

The event's red, yellow and orange logo was unveiled yesterday. The logo, designed by a team of professional design companies, was presented in Rome the day before the handover of the Cross and Icon.

With a youth styled tag line - WYD SYD 08 - the image unveiled for the Sydney event encapsulates five separate stories representing Christ, the Catholic faith, the pilgrimage that is World Youth Day, the youth participants and the host city Sydney.

Before the handover of the cross, broadcast live to a large congregation at St Mary's Cathedral, Cardinal Pell said: "It is wonderful to be with youth from every part of Australia on this occasion - Palm Sunday at St Peter's is one of the most beautiful liturgical ceremonies. Its significance is sharpened by Benedict consigning the most powerful symbol of Christianity, the cross, to young people, which underlines that it is a symbol of hope."

The cross will travel to Australia via Africa, Oceania and possibly some South-East Asian nations, Cardinal Pell said.

Pope vows to follow the cross to Sydney (Sydney Morning Herald 10/4/06)
Australia's Youth unveil inspiring World Youth Day 2008 logo (World Youth Day 9/4/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
World Youth Day 2008 - new site unveiled yesterday
WYD2008 Rome Delegates by State

Sydney eye on Sunday's WYD Cross handover (CathNews 7/4/06)
WYD delegates ready to depart for Rome (CathNews 6/4/06)
NSW Premier to attend WYD handover in Rome (CathNews 3/4/06)
NSW Premier's invite to Rome for WYD event (CathNews 20/3/06)
Bishop outlines World Youth Day progress (CathNews 13/3/06)
Winning design for World Youth Day (CathNews 24/2/06)
Pope tells theologian he's coming to Australia (CathNews 22/12/05)

The pope meets with young people in St. Peter's Square (Vatican Information Service 7/4/06 - temporary url)
Benedict and the youth (Open Book 7/4/06)
Sydney festival to get Papal blessing (Daily Telegraph 9/4/06)
Pope tells WYD youth: the Cross of Jesus is the real tree of life (AsiaNews.it 9/4/06)
Pope to youth: Life is a great adventure, dare to believe that God will not abandon you (Catholic News Agency 7/4/06)
Secularism is greatest challenge, Pope tells youth (Catholic World News 7/4/06)
Catholic youth primed for world gathering (Sydney Morning Herald 9/4/06)
Cardinal George Pell: Young carry cross's love message (Sunday Telegraph 9/4/06)
Catholic youth festival wins $40m pledge from leaders (The Australian 10/4/06)
Pope to visit Australia in 2008 (The Australian 10/4/06)
Pope Benedict XVI: Meeting with the young people of the Diocese of Rome in preparation for the celebration of the 21st World Youth Day (April 6, 2006)
Preparing for World Youth Day '08 (Zenit 8/4/06)
Preparing for World Youth Day '08: Interview With Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney (Zenit 7/4/06)
World Youth Day Leaders Meeting (Zenit 8/4/06)

10 Apr 2006