World Youth Day 2008 Highlights

By: Nathan Gallegos. Youth Group Leader, St Bernadette's Lalor Park.

The opening mass for World Youth Days 2008 took place at Barangaroo, north of King St wharf in Sydney. Around 225,000 registered pilgrims attended the Mass, which was celebrated by Cardinal George Pell (for Cardinal Pell's Opening Mass homily, click the following link and select your language,

After the Mass, youth festival events and a concert took place, in which hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from all over the world linked arms to cheerfully sing and dance together.

Each morning from Wednesday to Friday pilgrims attended catechesis, prayer, reconciliation and mass together, celebrated by Bishops and Archbishops from various dioceses across the globe. Then, after sharing meals with other pilgrims provided by volunteers, pilgrims headed out to the city to participate in a wide range of youth festival activities. These events included concerts, talks on theology, inter-faith dialogue sessions, prayer and meditation sessions, vocations exhibitions, exhibitions on saints and pilgrimages to St Mary's Cathedral.

On Thursday, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and many others filled Barangaroo and Sydney streets to officially welcome Pope Benedict XVI to Sydney. It was a civilised mosh pit as pilgrims all lined the barricades to catch a glimpse and a photo of His Holiness.

A prayerful atmosphere enveloped Sydney as a re-enactment of the Stations of the Cross took place in various locations of the CBD on Friday. Highlights of the Stations can be seen here,

After the Stations of the Cross, catholic and non-catholic pilgrims flocked to Barangaroo to the 'Receive the Power' concert. Opening performances by Hillsong United and the Matt Maher band preceded guest speaker testimonies, including an ex-gangster who turned his life around to follow God. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and calling down of the Holy Spirit followed, led by a Maltese Bishop from Melbourne.

On the Saturday, St Bernadette's Lalor Park pilgrims grouped together for the 10km walk from North Sydney to Randwick Racecourse. Proudly holding the St Bernadette's banner, they walked alongside thousands of other pilgrims joining in chants and songs. Upon arriving at the Racecourse, the group rested only to find Aureen already waiting, having walked to Randwick from Central Station! Much of the weekend at Randwick was spent meeting other pilgrims, getting signatures, photographs and free hugs. The Pope celebrated an evening Vigil for the pilgrims, before wishing all a good night. The rest of the night saw friendly and cheerful pilgrims partying and having fun. At approximately 3am, the Brazilian pilgrims stopped chanting 'Wake up pilgrims wake up!' and there was peace for an hour or so.

Though the night was cold, and the hours of sleep minimal, the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims woke early to prepare for morning prayer and the Pope's celebration of the Final Mass. In addition to the 225,000 registered pilgrims, an additional 200,000 made the journey to Randwick to welcome the Pope, and attend the final mass. (His Holiness' homily for the 23rd World Youth Day can be viewed here,

Soon after a Communion which lasted more than half an hour, the Mass had ended and the next World Youth Day was announced followed by simultaneous cheers from the multitude of pilgrims. World Youth Day for 2011 was to be held in: Madrid, Spain.

Before the physically exhausted, but spiritually renewed pilgrims embarked on the walk back to Central station for the trip home, the Holy Father commissioned all to "go forth to proclaim the Risen Christ and to draw every heart to Him!". This was not the end of the spiritual journey for our lives, but a joyful beginning! We had received the power from the Holy Spirit, and now it was time to spread the Good News and be God's witnesses, to all the ends of the earth.

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