At the final Mass at World Youth Day 2005 in Cologne, Germany, Pope Benedict XVI announced to the crowd that the 2008 World Youth Day will take place in Sydney, Australia. Since then the country has been planning for the big event.
On April 10, Bishop Anthony Fisher, O.P., auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Sydney and international coordinator for World Youth Day 2008, spoke to a group of some 50 people at the National Catholic Educational Association conference at the Baltimore Convention Center about the preparation taking place in Sydney.
The theme for the 2008 World Youth Day, July 15-20, is “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8).
“The theme we have been given by the pope, I have really been praying about,” said Bishop Fisher.
Jesus calls us to go to the ends of the earth as witnesses of our faith and many young people think Australia is like the end of the earth,” said Bishop Fisher jokingly.
He said the goals of this World Youth Day will be to enable the youth to be witnesses of God, experience the power of the Holy Spirit and have a moving and sanctifying pilgrimage in faith.
“I think this will be an enormous grace for our country,” said Bishop Fisher. “I cannot think of another single thing you can do to encourage our youth.”
As part of the preparation plans for World Youth Day, a Web site (www.wyd2008.org) and ePilgrimage have been started to encourage and answer participants’ questions. Anyone who registers for the ePilgrimage online will receive ePackets including advice on traveling and staying in Australia, prayers, testimonials from young people, general information and more. An international DVD and downloadable posters have also been created.
“There is a sense of ownership” for the youth of Australia in regards to World Youth Day, said Bishop Fisher. “When the World Youth Day cross arrives the excitement will build and build.”
The bishop explained the schedule for the 10-day pilgrimage and encouraged the audience to bring their youth to Australia days before the event to experience the country, and also New Zealand, and its rich culture. The Days in the Diocese will be held July 10-14 where young people will have an opportunity to live with an Australian family as they travel and explore the Land Down Under.
The papal welcome will be held on the afternoon of July 17 as the pope rides into Sydney on a boat in full view of the hundreds of thousands of young people standing on the shore to greet him. Reconciliation will be offered all week along with eucharistic adoration and a vocations expo. The 10-kilometer pilgrimage will take place July 19 with an evening vigil to follow. During the vigil young Catholics will come forward to be confirmed by the pope.
“I hope that they may walk away with a great sense of God’s power within them,” said Bishop Fisher. “The church was started by 11 young people and they did great things. I think God can do that again.”