Bridge walk for WYD08 pilgrims

A walk across Sydney's iconic Harbour Bridge will be the highlight of a 10-kilometre pilgrimage to the Randwick Racecourse site for the World Youth Day 2008 overnight vigil and final Mass with Pope Benedict.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Pope will follow in the footsteps of Pope John Paul II, when Randwick Racecourse is named today as the site of the celebration's closing Mass.

The official announcement of the venue is to be made this morning at Randwick in the presence of Sydney's Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity (PCL), NSW Deputy Premier, John Watkins and Federal Member for Wentworth, Malcolm Turnbull.

In 1995, Pope John Paul II conducted three papal Masses at the racecourse, including the beatification of Mary MacKillop.

The afternoon before the WYD08 closing papal Mass, half the Harbour Bridge will be closed to traffic to allow pilgrims to make their way from the MacKillop chapel in North Sydney to the vigil site, where they will sleep overnight.

The racecourse can accommodate 375,000 people. The rest of the half-million expected crowd will spill onto Alison Road, which will be closed to traffic, and into Centennial Park.

There pilgrims can watch the Mass on large screens but plans are being developed so that the Pope can drive by the crowds.

Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko, who leads the PCL delegation, toured Randwick Racecourse, one of four short-listed sites, yesterday before receiving a briefing from the State Government.

Rejecting comparisons with Woodstock or the Olympics, Archbishop Rylko told the Herald that the event was about imparting the experience of a universal church.

"We stress always one thing, that World Youth Day is a very special event. It's very different from big sport games and it's very different from normal gatherings of young people," he said.

"Young people who come respond to the invitation of the Pope. They are different young people. They are very motivated, prepared along an itinerary of spiritual, pastoral preparation.

"Sometimes they are not believers but are following the invitation of Christian friends to come and see. This is the big panorama of World Youth Day."

An Australian Catholic University researcher, Richard Rymarz, said the day was part pilgrimage, part evangelical rally.

"The kids, they all love it the evangelical expression. The big question is what happens afterwards," he told the Herald.

Update: Randwick confirmed as venue for WYD08 closing mass with Benedict

As anticipated, Randwick Racecourse has been chosen as the venue for the closing mass of 2008 World Youth Day.

The Archbishop of Sydney, George Cardinal Pell, made the announcement today with Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity - the Vatican body reviewing Sydney's preparation for the world's biggest youth event.

"We needed a site that could accommodate up to 600,000 people and get them to and from that site as smoothly as possible," said Cardinal Pell, who chairs the World Youth Day 2008 Local Organising Committee.

"Up to 300,000 pilgrims will walk to the site on Saturday for an overnight Vigil with Pope Benedict and a sleep-out under the stars.

"As many as 300,000 more are expected to arrive the following morning to hear His Holiness celebrate the Final Mass."

Cardinal Pell said that Randwick was deemed to provide the best combination of space, uninterrupted sight lines and transport links.

"We wanted as many people as possible to see the Pope directly; Randwick offers this opportunity to 400,000 people while another 200,000 or more can be part of the Final Mass in Centennial Park via video link.

"Getting people to and from the site in large numbers was also crucial," he said.

Cardinal Pell said Randwick also had the highest minimum temperatures of any site considered, an important factor for the Vigil and sleep-out.

Archbishop Rylko said he was pleased Randwick would extend its heritage as the site of Papal Masses in Sydney.

"This will be the fourth Papal Mass celebrated there," Archbishop Rylko said.

"His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI is looking forward to his first visit to Australia and to celebrating Mass at the place where Pope John Paul II and Pope Paul VI stood before him."

He said Sydney's preparations for WYD08 were progressing well.

"I am confident Sydney will deliver a memorable World Youth Day; it is a beautiful city with world class facilities and warm, friendly people."

NSW Premier Morris Iemma said Randwick, in Sydney's eastern suburbs, was more suitable than the alternative site, Sydney Olympic Park, because it had more expansive viewing areas, a report in the Australian adds.

Randwick Racecourse chosen for World Youth Day Papal Mass (World Youth Day 2008, Media Release, 6/10/06)
Youth papal mass for Sydney (The Australian, 6/10/06)
World Youth Youth Day (Media Alert, 6/10/06)
Bridge walk and overnight vigil before papal Mass (Sydney Morning Herald, 6/10/06)
Racetrack mass firms (The Australian, 6/10/06) (The Australian, 6/10/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
World Youth Day 2008
Australian Jockey Club Randwick Racecourse
Sydney Harbour Bridge

Musos to compete for WYD theme song (3/10/06)
World Youth Day sets up shop (CathNews, 27/9/06)
Sydney stretched for WYD08 space (CathNews, 25/9/06)
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)

6 Oct 2006