VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI announced that he planned to attend World Youth Day celebrations in Australia in July 2008, and he encouraged young people to prepare for “this marvelous celebration of the faith.”
Speaking at the end of his general audience July 4, the pope confirmed hopes that he would make the 10,000-mile journey from Rome to Sydney for the international assembly with hundreds of thousands of youths.
“One year from now we will meet at World Youth Day in Sydney!” the pope told a group of young people in Rome for a planning session. The pope tentatively was scheduled to arrive in Sydney July 17, 2008, for four days of ceremonies.
“For many of us, this will be a long journey. Yet Australia and its people evoke images of a warm welcome and wondrous beauty, of an ancient aboriginal history, and a multitude of vibrant cities and communities,” he said.
The pope encouraged young people to prepare for World Youth Day by entering fully into the life of their local parishes. The more they participate enthusiastically in local church events, he said, the more they will approach the megagathering in Sydney with “awe and eager anticipation.”
“World Youth Day is much more than an event. It is a time of deep spiritual renewal, the fruits of which benefit the whole of society,” he said.
The pope underlined the importance of the theme of World Youth Day: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth.” Receiving the power of the spirit, he said, helps transform uncertainty, fear and division into purpose, hope and communion.
He told the young people that today’s world needs their faith, energy and love. Against a “tide of secularism,” he said, many young people are rediscovering the quest for authentic beauty, goodness and truth.
“Some of you have friends with little real purpose in their lives, perhaps caught up in a futile search for endless new experiences. Bring them to World Youth Day, too!” the pope said.
Young Catholics should be courageous in witnessing to the Gospel and spreading “Christ’s guiding light, which gives purpose to all life,” he said.
In his regular audience talk, the pope recalled the figure of St. Basil the Great, a fourth-century bishop and doctor of the church. The pope held him out as a model of faith in action and a man who helped turn monastic life into the nucleus of the local church community.
The pope focused on St. Basil’s special concern for the poor and needy. As bishop, he pressed governing authorities to do more to help those who suffered, and he made sure the local church built schools, hospitals and charitable institutions, the pope said.
The saint’s pastoral activity, the pope said, flowed from his deep devotion to the sacred liturgy, and the church still possesses a eucharistic prayer bearing his name.
“We find in Basil an outstanding model of free, total and uncompromising service to the church. May God give us the courage to imitate him,” he said.