By Anthony Barich
Get ready for the World Youth Day extravaganza as 10,000 Perth Catholics young and old (mostly young) are expected to descend on the Esplanade in Perth CBD to officially welcome over 3000 international pilgrims to launch Days in the Diocese, the big curtain-raiser for the main event in Sydney when Australia welcomes Pope Benedict XVI for the first time in his pontificate.
Every Catholic school, community, congregation and parish in the metropolitan area, and then some, is invited to attend the free international youth eventon Thursday, July 10, right in the middle of university and school holidays.
Local and international bands, speakers, dancers and other performance artists will be on show as Perth’s Catholics show the rest of the city the joy of living as Christians.
The day represents the formal welcome for the international pilgrims – including several bishops from around the world, priests, friars and nuns, as well as thousands of lay people.
Switzerland alone is sending a bishop, several priests and 132 pilgrims, while the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal from the United States and a large contingent of over 50 pilgrims and Schoenstatt priests, nuns and seminarians from Germany are also on the way to Perth for some enculturation before they hit Sydney for the main event.
There is a sizable contingent coming from Cape Town in South Africa and other African nations are sending pilgrims and priests.
The main event, WYD, is the largest youth event in the world, with more expected at Sydney in July than descended on the Harbour City for the 2000 Olympics.
Organised by the Catholic Church, World Youth Day gathers young people from around the world to build bridges of friendship and hope between continents, peoples and cultures.
In August 2005, Sydney was chosen to host the XXIII World Youth Day. Pope Benedict XVI in Cologne made the announcement at the conclusion of the XX World Youth Day in August 2005.
Through the WYD08 experience, young people from throughout the world will make a pilgrimage in faith, meet, and experience the love of God. The young people will have an opportunity to rediscover their baptismal calling and the centrality of the sacraments of the Eucharist and reconciliation, and so discover a new apostolic zeal to witness more fully the Gospel in the modern world – all in the context of the beauty of Australia and the hospitality of the Australian people.
To preview all this, Perth’s Days in the Diocese launch includes stalls for exhibitions from the many Catholic ministries active in WA and a “V-Space” – a vocations area for those discerning or curious about religious life.
There will also be a major “immersion” of indigenous culture for the thousands of international pilgrims to learn about Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, with potential painting workshops and didgeridoo lessons.
The next day, on July 11, is Frassati Friday, named after the celebrated Italian saint Pier Giorgio Frassati who is seen as a special patron for youth around the world as he combined his enjoyment of life and sports with strong faith, serious charity and a commitment to social justice. He died at age 24. Details are being finalised to fly his body to Sydney for veneration by young people at WYD in July.
Frassati Friday will be a day where locals host international pilgrims in community service events that will immerse them in Australian culture.