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Thursday, 24 April 2014
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World Youth Day 2008

My name is Barry White, and during the month of July I went on pilgrimage to World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia, representing Rathkenny Parish. I travelled with 47 young people from the Diocese of Meath, including four priests: Fr Mark English, Fr Gerard Boyle, Fr Brendan Ludlow and Fr Sean Mc Hugh. Bishop Michael Smith and Monsignor Sean Heaney joined the Meath youth group in Sydney also.

World Youth Day - What is it?

World Youth Day is organised by the Catholic Church to encourage the young Catholics of the world to celebrate their faith in the presence of the Pope, their bishops and priests. Pope John Paul II initiated such world gatherings in 1984, and they became an important aspect of his ministry and vision for the Catholic Church. Usually, it is celebrated every year at local level on Palm Sunday, and then every second or third year in a major city of the world. In July 2005 Pope Benedict invited the youth of the world to journey towards Sydney for the 23rd World Youth Day.

World Youth Day is about meeting new friends, and celebrating your faith with an excitement you could never have thought possible. It doesn’t matter how strong one's practice of Faith is. What matters is that one is interested in participating in an event that is much more than a holiday. We, young people from the Diocese, departed Dublin Airport on 3rd July for Sydney, on what was going to be an unforgettable experience down under. By going to World Youth Day, we were moving away from our comfort zones, our families and friends, and sharing in the Spirit of God, who was calling us to meet with Pope Benedict and the youth of the world.

Australian Family and Community

On arriving in Sydney we visited St Mary’s Cathedral and Sydney Harbour and Opera House. During our pilgrimage we spent 4 days in the Diocese of Bathurst. We stayed with host families while in Bathurst and this allowed us to experience the ordinary family and community life of a parish and diocese in Australia. We met pilgrims from South America, Europe, India, Pakistan and the Congo.

The local parishioners and the pilgrims together celebrated masses daily, benediction, and participated in a candle light procession during the days in the Diocese. Bishop Michael Smith and Bishop Dougarty of Bathurst celebrated the Eucharist with 1,500 pilgrims in Bathurst before they headed for World Youth Day in Sydney.

Cardinal Pell speaks of God's call

On 15th July Cardinal Pell, Archbishop of Sydney celebrated the opening mass of World Youth Day with 145,000 pilgrims. It was a scene of jubilation and exaltation with the faithful celebrating, worshipping and adoring the one God. The Irish singer, Dana R. Scallon sang the hymn, “We are one body”, at Communion time. The flags of many of the 170 nations fluttered in the breeze at sunset and into the night... a night to remember. In his homily, Cardinal Pell preached that all people are called by God, but need to have the courage of the Spirit to answer this call. He also said that the spirit of World Youth Day should be brought into everyday life.

"The Church is your home . . . no-one needs to remain on the outside" Benedict XVI

On 17th July, up to 500,000 people, including local and international pilgrims lining the harbour foreshores, greeted Pope Benedict in Sydney harbour. He travelled from Sydney Harbour, aboard the boat “Sydney 2000”, to Barangaroo, where he addressed the crowds of youth. In his homily he said, “The Church is your home... no-one needs to remain on the outside”. Afterwards he journeyed through the streets of Sydney in the Popemobile.

Vigil, Adoration and Reconciliation

On 19th July, the Meath youth group made a pilgrimage walk from Sydney Harbour Bridge to Randwick Racecourse, where Pope Benedict would arrive and celebrate a night vigil. That night, 300,000 young people slept out under the stars. There was the opportunity to be involved in Eucharistic adoration and to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. On 20th July, 400,000 youth celebrated the final Mass of World Youth Day with Pope Benedict. Amazingly, the Popemobile passed by the Meath youth group, as it circled the racecourse.

Next Year . . . in Madrid

The Holy Father announced that the next World Youth Day will be held in Madrid, Spain in 2011.What benefited me most from World Youth Day was that I was able to express my faith openly with other young people.

"What benefited me most from World Youth Day was that I was able to express my faith openly with other young people. . . . "

Young people today live in a world which is secular and materialistic and so it is difficult to express a faith in God. It was amazing to be able to celebrate my faith with young people who, regardless of culture, language or background, were there, united in Christ. Every day of the pilgrimage was a new and exciting adventure in which I was able to share so much with a great group of people. I have made so many friendships with people from the Meath youth group and other pilgrims I encountered along the way.

“Be a light unto the world


The theme for World Youth Day in Sydney was “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my witnesses”(Act 1:8). In the theme song for the event, “Receive the Power”, there is a line: “Be a light unto the world”. The image of a candle is a good image for each young person. The flame of a candle can be fragile but at the same time gives off light to be able to see. Likewise with a young person, they can be open to sin and weakness but due to their energy and youthfulness can become active in their parish communities and express a faith in God.

See also on this site: 

World Youth Day Cross
Email from the Pope
Youth Day on Papal Visit to France
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