ROME, DEC. 15, 2008 ( An icon of Mary entrusted to youth by Pope John Paul II will be in Australia for the coming year. One young Australian says having the image is like St. John receiving Our Lady at the cross.

This was the impression expressed by Kelly Edmunds to ZENIT on Thursday, when she formed part of the Australian delegation to receive the icon at the traditional Eucharistic celebration for Roman universities in preparation for Christmas. The Mass was presided over by the Holy Father's vicar for Rome, Cardinal Agostino Vallini. At the end, Benedict XVI addressed the students.

The icon, known as Sedes Sapientiae (throne of wisdom) will be in Australia as a follow up to last July's World Youth Day in Sydney. The image is of the Virgin with the Child Jesus, and travels to schools and universities, as the Holy Father wished.

Each year, the icon is given to a new group of students in Rome. This year, a delegation from Romania gave the image to the Australians.

Cardinal Vallini told the young people, "In your life of study and investigation, constantly turn your gaze to her: throne of wisdom who continues to communicate to the Church and humanity the events and words of salvation kept in her heart."

Sharing the faith

Edmunds took the message to heart, expressing her excitement at receiving the icon: "It makes me enthusiastic to be able to bring Mary to Australia and share my faith with university students."

She acknowledged that in a society as secularized as Australia's, "it is difficult to be Catholic when others think there is no reason to live the faith, but it is marvelous to be a witness of the faith and live it with joy."

Xavier O'Kane agreed. He told ZENIT: "It is absolutely incredible to be in Rome and it is a blessing to have been chosen as a university student from Australia in the delegation of Catholic students. This makes me strengthen my faith."

Among the Rumanian students, Marcela Iacomi, an Orthodox youth, said the experience in Rome was motivating her to create more apostolate in her Church.

"In the Orthodox Church, we do not have such a strong experience among students," she said. "The new patriarch in Romania is very interested in developing the catechesis for the youth of Romania."

During Thursday's meeting with the Pope, a law student, Irene Piccolo, spoke on behalf of the young people in thanking the Holy Father for his support of youth ministry.

She said that both World Youth Day and the Pauline Jubilee Year have been opportunities that can "bring many youth confused by the relativism of this age closer to the Church."