SYDNEY, Australia, JULY 21, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI has shown that World Youth Days are an ordinary part of the Church’s life, not just an invention of Pope John Paul II.
Cardinal George Pell, archbishop of Sydney, affirmed this before Benedict XVI gave his final blessing to some 400,000 gathered at Randwick Racecourse on Sunday for the closing of the 23rd World Youth Day. The president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, also addressed the group.
Cardinal Pell thanked the pilgrims for traveling to his country, noting that such an undertaking isn’t easy.
“We hope in turn that you will carry home fond memories not only of our hospitality, but of our Christian witness. […] I know that many of you made great sacrifices to share these days with us,” he said. “You have honored Australia with your presence and your enthusiasm. We are humbled and grateful. We assure you that your witness here will not be forgotten. You have planted a seed here in Great South Land that will, please God, yield a hundredfold harvest.”
Addressing the Pope, the prelate thanked him for having made World Youth Day an “ordinary part” of the Church’s life.
“Your Holiness, the World Youth Days were the invention of Pope John Paul the Great,” Cardinal Pell recalled. “The World Youth Day in Cologne was already announced before your election. You decided to continue the World Youth Days and to hold this one in Sydney. We are profoundly grateful for this decision, indicating that the World Youth Days do not belong to one pope, or even one generation, but are now an ordinary part of the life of the Church. The John Paul II generation, young and old alike, is proud to be faithful sons and daughters of Pope Benedict.”
At this, the Holy Father raised his hands and the crowd erupted into cheers.
Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, addressed the Pontiff and the pilgrims, saying the youth are “a wonderful illustration of a young Church, filled with hope, with the joy of faith, and with missionary courage.”
He said that during World Youth Day, “in so many languages and in many different ways, they have proclaimed Jesus Christ, the only savior of humanity. They have given witness that to be disciples of Christ is very rewarding; to be Christian is a very beautiful thing! Throughout these few days we have been present at a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We have been aware of the breath and power of the Spirit among us.”
Cardinal Rylko thanked Benedict XVI for his “paternal presence,” saying it is “great encouragement for us because it is an eloquent sign of the love of the Church for the young generations. In you, Holy Father, we see a Church that is a friend to young people: a Church that listens to them, searches them out, accompanies them and teaches them.”
Finally, he noted that the conclusion of World Youth Day is really just a beginning.
“Holy Father,” the cardinal said, “the culminating point of the 23rd World Youth Day has come: the sending out on mission. In a year that is dedicated to St. Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles, this takes on a very special significance. Recalling Paul’s powerful missionary zeal — “Woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel!” — all of these young people wish to set out from Sydney to their respective countries and the places where they live and there to be young missionaries of Christ and the Gospel.
“They are very aware of what you once told us: ‘There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know Christ and to speak to others of our friendship with him. (…) Christ takes nothing away, and he gives you everything.'”