Irish pilgrims prepare for arrival of Pope Benedict XVI to World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia

15 Jul 2008

15 July 2008

Irish pilgrims prepare for arrival of Pope Benedict XVI

to World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia

RTÉ to broadcast special World Youth Day programme on Sunday 20 July

More than 800 young Irish Catholics supported by eight bishops including Cardinal Seán Brady and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin are in Sydney, Australia making final preparations for the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI to this year’s World Youth Day event.

World Youth Day is a week-long series of events attended by hundreds of thousands of young people from all over the globe. It has become the largest single mobilisation of young people in the world. The week culminates in a final Mass celebrated by the Pope on the last day (the actual World Youth Day). World Youth Day is an invitation from the Pope to the youth of the world to celebrate their faith around a particular theme. The 2008 World Youth Day theme, received from Pope Benedict XVI is: ‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses.’ Acts 1:8

Groups of young people from all over Ireland together with their pilgrimage leaders have spent the last few days making their way from different parts of Australia where they have taken part in the Days in the Diocese programme which involved a range of social, cultural and faith activities organised by the local parishioners.

The World Youth Day festivities began formally in Sydney yesterday [Monday 14 July] with registration. Today, Tuesday 15 July, the Opening Mass for World Youth Day was held. Each morning there are catechesis [teaching session] with a bishop from the worldwide Church. Pope Benedict XVI will arrive in Sydney Harbour by boat on Thursday 17 July where pilgrims will welcome him at the waterfront. World Youth Day 2008 will mark the first visit of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to Australia. On Friday 18 July, Sydney will come to a halt for a re-enactment of the Stations of the Cross. On Saturday 19 July more than half a million people are expected to make the pilgrim walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge to Randwick Racecourse for night prayer with Pope Benedict XVI and a night vigil. On Sunday 20 July Pope Benedict XVI will preside at the World Youth Day closing Mass where the venue for the next World Youth Day will be announced.

On Sunday 20 July, RTÉ will broadcast an hour long programme on the World Youth Day in Sydney. Gerri Maye will present the programme at 11.00am on RTE 1 which will be highlights of the Stations of the Cross on Friday 18 July, the Vigil on Saturday night and the Closing Mass on Sunday 20 July, as well as some material that RTÉ filmed with pilgrims in Ireland before they left for World Youth Day. Due to the time difference [Sydney is nine hours ahead] RTÉ are not in a position to broadcast these events live on television however, they are providing live streaming of these three events as they happen on the RTÉ website at

Commenting on this year’s World Youth Day Bishop Donal McKeown, Auxiliary Bishop of Down and Connor and Chairman of the Bishops’ Commission for Vocations & Pastoral Outreach to Young People, said: “The next few days will see large crowds gathering in Sydney, Australia to celebrate World Youth Day with Pope Benedict XVI. It will be a great opportunity to proudly celebrate faith, hope and love in a world where many doubt that any of those words have any real meaning.

“The theme ‘You will be my witnesses’ is a perennial call for each person to believe that they can make the world a better place by witnessing to their belief in the God of truth, beauty and peace. Everybody is all too aware of where those are missing! And it ties in with our own Irish Year of Vocation. Along with all Christians we believe that, if God has a dream for each individual to grow and mature to the fullness of their potential, then each person’s life is of infinite value and dignity – and seeking that dream, that vocation gives meaning to all that we do and all that we are.

“I hope the World Youth Day gathering will be a time of celebration and encouragement for those who celebrate it – in Australia and throughout Ireland. The challenge for us in the Irish Church is to ensure that we can build on the youthful enthusiasm and idealism in our parish communities.”


Further information:
Brenda Drumm, Communications Officer (087 233 7797)
Kathy Tynan, Communications Officer (086 817 5674)

Notes for Editors:
The atmosphere for World Youth Day events is festive and focuses on prayer and growing in Christian faith. Every day there will be Mass, prayers and teaching (catechesis) on essential aspects of the Catholic faith as well as music and cultural events.

This year’s World Youth Day event in Australia will be attended by a number of Irish bishops: Cardinal Seán Brady – Armagh; Archbishop Diarmuid Martin – Dublin; Bishop Jim Moriarty – Kildare and Leighlin; Bishop Donal Murray – Limerick; Bishop Michael Smith – Meath; Bishop Seamus Freeman – Ossory; Bishop Denis Brennan – Ferns; and Bishop Raymond Field – Dublin.

WYD has become a legacy and living relic of the vision of Pope John Paul II which was to invite young people to participate in the very heart of the Church. Since 1985 millions of young people have participated in these great events. In 1985 as part of International Youth Year the Pope invited young people of Italy to meet with him. Around 500 000 young people turned up, including many from outside of Italy. Pope John Paul II immediately recognised the potential of such gatherings. He went on to keep these “appointments” with young people. WYD has since been held in Denver 1993, Manila 1995, Paris 1997, Rome 2000, Toronto 2002 and Cologne in 2005.

Key WYD 2008 Statistics:

  • Up to 225,000 registered pilgrims are expected to take part in WYD 2008 events each day, including 125,000 international visitors.
  • 100,000 Australian pilgrims are expected, including 40,000 from the greater Sydney area.
  • An estimated 8,000 volunteers will assist
  • An estimated 2,000 clergy will be present
  • An estimated 700 Cardinals and Bishops will be present
  • Between 3,000 – 5,000 media are expected to cover the event
  • 3.5 million meals will be served to pilgrims
  • 100,000 will sleep in 700 schools and parishes
  • Up to 500,000 people are expected to attend the Final Mass at Randwick Racecourse and Centennial Park
  • The four official WYD08 languages are: English, French, Italian and Spanish

WYD 2008 logo

The logo distils the essence of the theme for WYD08 and highlights the promise made by Jesus to set fire upon the Earth by the power of the Holy Spirit which inspires the pilgrims who come to Australia, to believe and witness to Him.

Central to the logo is the Cross raised in victory, representing Christ and the life of witness which the Holy Spirit enables. It is the passion of the heart of Christ, poured out into the world from the Cross, which consumes the young people of Sydney, of Australia and of the world. The whiteness of the Cross indicates that Jesus is the light of the world. The flames of the logo represent the Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in tongues of fire. They evoke the Sacrament of Confirmation and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The colours of red, orange and yellow flowing throughout symbolise the Trinity and Unity of God. They also bring to mind the colours of the Australian outback.

The blue of the logo represents the oceans that surround Australia, the waters of Baptism, the sea of humanity and Mary, full of grace.

The Opera House is the symbol of Sydney, the host city for WYD08.