Cardinal Pell on What Sydney Can Offer

Looks Ahead to World Youth Day 2008

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COLOGNE, Germany, AUG. 22, 2005 ( Cardinal George Pell and a group of 2,300 young Australian pilgrims expressed their joy over Benedict XVI’s announcement that Sydney will be the host city for World Youth Day 2008.

The archbishop of Sydney, 64, told ZENIT that he had learned a lot from his Cologne experience and believes that «the mixture» of sacraments and fun «still works.»

He insisted that «as long as the event remains Christocentric, a religious pilgrimage and it’s not distracted away into other things, it will continue to work.»

Q: What does Sydney intend to offer to the pilgrims of the world?

Cardinal Pell: Sydney is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and has been voted as such too by the world on occasion.

It’s a city of 4 million people, 1 million Catholics. A splendid range of facilities which were designed and used for the Olympic Games, and a whole raft of people who are experts in organization and who have cut their teeth at those 2000 Games and have been a great help to us.

We have a strong core of deeply religious Catholics, and obviously they will help us present it, but the whole intention behind it is that it will strengthen the faith of young Australians and those who come. It will be specifically Catholic as always but it will be an offering to all those young Aussies who don’t have a settled core of religious convictions.

We’ll offer them something different.

Q: Indeed, WYDs are extremely multicultural events and that’s one thing Australia also has, true?

Cardinal Pell: I think we probably have the highest percentage of migrants in the world, and Catholic Sydney is enormously multicultural. We get great strength from our Vietnamese communities, the Koreans, Chinese and then, of course, from the Italians, Lebanese, Maltese and the Irish.

This is something very distinct that Sydney, Australia, offers to the dynamics of the next WYD — it’s the New Land. It’s based on a shared inheritance rather than in the cases of European cities being very much entrenched in their specific cultures, perhaps?

Initially it actually presents some difficulties because we don’t have the great multiplicity of the beautiful Catholic shrines as you do in Europe. We’re still pioneers here. We’re also a predominately English-speaking country with a somewhat different set of perspectives from continental Europe.

But we’ve got a lot to offer and I believe that we stand to gain and receive a lot.

Our people, seeing these young people come into our country with their living faith and enthusiasm blazing — the thought strengthens me and our pilgrims, so I am sure it will make a difference to the young Aussies at home who encounter it.

Q: We’ve noticed that in this trip Pope Benedict XVI has made some historic steps toward building bridges and reconciliation. Is this element likely to be part of the Sydney schedule?

Cardinal Pell: Well I think the main thing is, is that it is a Catholic celebration that will remain a Catholic celebration. But that doesn’t bar us from having a significantly ecumenical dimension.

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