SYDNEY, Australia, JULY 21, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI told pilgrims at the Youth Day closing Mass not to fear a call to the priesthood or consecrated life. One statistic indicates his words fell on fertile soil: An average of 2,500 pilgrims an hour visited the Vocations Expo in Sydney.
This and other statistics reveal the most spiritual and the most simple aspects of the 23rd World Youth Day, which concluded Sunday.
More than 400,000 people attended the closing Mass. And 500,000 welcomed the Pope to Sydney for his official arrival on Thursday.
The number of international and local pilgrims was about the same: 110,000 arrived Down Under and 113,000 were native Australians, for a total of 223,000 registered pilgrims. Those arriving from outside Australia came from 170 nations. Even Myanmar granted a few visas for the event: 37 lucky Myanmar pilgrims overcame strict rules at home and made it to Sydney.
The events with Benedict XVI brought the most attention, but pilgrims were busy even when they weren’t with the Pope. Some 70,000 international pilgrims took part in Days of the Diocese throughout Australia during the week leading up to World Youth Day. Catechesis was delivered at 235 locations across Sydney in 29 different languages; and 450 Youth Festival events took place during the week from Tuesday to Sunday in over 100 venues.
Those who didn’t make it to Australia were tuned in to what was happening. The World Youth Day Web site received over 500,000 unique users from Saturday, July 12, to Sunday, July 20, with the biggest spike in hits occurring Thursday, July 17, when the Pope made his official arrival in a boat-a-cade. Online streaming received over 250,000 visits during the event period. Top countries watching online streaming included the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy, Canada, Spain and Germany. And 2,000 media professionals were accredited for the event.
The Holy Father himself caused some interesting statistics. His flight to Sydney was the longest he’s ever taken as Pope: 19 hours and 45 minutes. Getting home was even more grueling, with a 21-hour flight taking him back to Rome.
The Pope met six native Australian animals from Taronga Zoo while he was resting before World Youth Day at the Opus Dei Kenthurst Center: a wallaby, koala, python, lizard, baby crocodile and an echidna. And he kissed four small children during his tours in the popemobile.
Perhaps the most important statistic has to do with the people designated to intercede for the Sydney event from their places in heaven. There were 10 World Youth Day Patrons: Sts. Thérèse of Lisieux, Faustina Kowalska, Maria Goretti, Peter Chanel, Blesseds Peter To Rot, Mary MacKillop, Pier Giorgio Frassati, Teresa of Calcutta, and John Paul II and the Virgin Mary, under the title of Our Lady of the Southern Cross.