SYDNEY, Australia – Hundreds of youth, clergy and laity watched the World Youth Day cross and icon of Mary and Jesus pass from young New Zealanders to youth representatives from every Australian diocese.
Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide, president of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Australian Prime Minister John Howard and New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma were among those gathered to welcome the symbols July 1 inside a lofty Sydney airport hangar where the more than 12-foot-high World Youth Day cross was framed against the bulk of a Qantas jumbo jet.
Archbishop Wilson said that for more than 20 years, the icon and cross had traveled the world “bringing the message of hope, peace and Christ’s love for humanity.”
The archbishop predicted the 12-month pilgrimage through more than 400 communities and 28 Australian dioceses “would touch the lives of many young Australians” before the cross and icon return to Sydney for World Youth Day in July 2008.
The cross and icon later were moved to the shrine of Blessed Mary MacKillop in North Sydney, but the pilgrimage formally began with young people carrying the symbols to a reception and concert at Sydney’s Darling Harbor.
Guy Sebastian and Paulini, both winners of the Australian Idol TV talent quest, premiered the anthem of World Youth Day 2008, “Receive the Power,” before the crowd of 7,000.
Sebastian, a Pentecostal Christian, co-wrote “Receive the Power” with Gary Pinto at the invitation of the World Youth Day committee. The national contest for the anthem that drew 125 entries failed to find a suitable anthem for the event.
“As a Christian I’m ready to stand up and witness for Our Lord – anytime,” said Sebastian, 25.
He said World Youth Day is “accessible to anybody who wants to come to this gathering and celebrate Christ.”
“My faith is my anchor in life,” he said, “My singing has always been about glorifying God.”
He said his teen years singing in youth ministry on the streets had him “cop it from plenty of cynics.” He added that he learned as a youngster “not to compromise the opinion of many with the views of a few.”
Sebastian said that, unlike some of his unfinished songs, the anthem was inspired.
“Words and melody came out in one go,” he said.
Bonnie Boezeman, who produced the song and accompanying video clip available on the official World Youth Day Web site, said Sebastian was “the most spiritual of any performer I have ever worked with.”
The Syracuse, N.Y.-born Boezeman said “Receive the Power” had the “anthemic appeal of being able to be sung by thousands of people.”
Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney, coordinator of World Youth Day who lobbied for the song’s acceptance, said “Receive the Power” encapsulates “the pneumatological theme” of World Youth Day 2008 perfectly.
“The song comes from the last words Christ spoke to his disciples before he ascended to the Father and articulates the response of the faithful disciple to Christ’s call, ‘You will be my witnesses,’“ he said.
Besides being “an evocation of the eucharistic Lord,” Bishop Fisher said the song also “cleverly recalls and unites the catechetical themes of previous World Youth Day themes, ‘Emmanuel’ (Rome), ‘Light to the World’ (Toronto) and ‘We Worship You’ (Cologne, Germany).”