Sydney stretched for WYD08 space

A high level Vatican team will visit Sydney this week to review preparations for World Youth Day 2008 as organisers struggle to identify a suitable venue with capacity for the 600,000 strong crowd expected for the closing Mass with Pope Benedict.

Polish Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko will lead a three-person delegation from the Pontifical Council for the Laity (PCL), the body that oversees World Youth Day (WYD08) preparations and promotes the initiative around the world.

Arriving in Sydney on Thursday, the delegation will spend just over a week visiting potential WYD08 event sites and meeting Australian Catholic leaders, dignitaries and Government officials.

The delegation's visit comes as press reports indicate that the number of Catholics registering interest to attend the world's biggest youth Christian gathering is almost a third higher than first estimated.

With Olympic Park already ruled out as too small, according to a Sydney Morning Herald report, WYD08 organisers are interested in four Sydney sites.

The main one of these is Randwick racecourse, where the last three papal Masses were held, including those of John Paul II in 1986 and 1995.

More than 250,000 attended the 1995 papal Mass for the beatification of Mary MacKillop. But with Randwick limited to 375,000 people, the anticipated overflow will need to be accommodated in adjoining Centennial Park.

Using the open space and tarmacs around Bankstown Airport and Sydney Airport is also being considered, as is Bungarribee Park, near Doonside.

All four sites have been short-listed for their ease of transport access, line of sight vision to the Pope and overnight winter temperatures, because pilgrims will camp at the venue.

The final site will be announced at the end of the visit by the PCL delegation on 6 October, the Herald reports.

"We look forward to showcasing Sydney, discussing our preparations and receiving their feedback and advice," Sydney WYD08 Coordinator Bishop Anthony Fisher said in statement welcoming the Pontifical Council for the Laity delegation.

World Youth Day, launched by Pope John Paul 20 years ago, is the largest youth event in the world and will attract an anticipated 500-600,000 pilgrims for the final Mass while 200,000 are expected to participate in the week long WYD program of activities.

Olympic Park too small for papal Mass (Sydney Morning Herald, 25/9/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
World Youth Day 2008
Pontifical Council for the Laity

Married priests on agenda for new Eastern Rite bishops association (CathNews, 30/8/06)
Oceania bishops voice concern on climate change, AIDS (Cathnews, 15/8/06)
More places needed as 25,000 Americans expected for WYD08 (CathNews, 2/8/06)
Think big for WYD: NZ bishop (CathNews, 28/7/06)
Bishop Fisher unveils WYD plan (CathNews, 10/7/06)

25 Sep 2006