By Paul Gray
A unique church service will be televised live throughout France from Canberra’s St Christopher Cathedral next month, when the Archbishop of Paris visits our national capital for a special Mass for French Word Youth Day pilgrims.
Cardinal Andre Armand Vingt-Trois, who succeeded the late Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger as Archbishop of Paris, will concelebrate the Mass with Canberra-Goulburn’s Archbishop Mark Coleridge.
Nearly 1000 French pilgrims are expected to crowd the Canberra Cathedral for the July 13 Mass, which has been scheduled for 6pm to allow 1.5 million French viewers to watch live from home.
The Mass is an organisational coup for the Canberra-Goulburn archdiocese, and will add further international flavour to the World Youth Day festival in Australia next month. In what is rapidly becoming a tradition, the archdiocese of Paris arranges Mass for youth pilgrims from France on the Sunday before the papal Mass in the country where World Youth Day is taking place that year.
Where possible, the Cardinal-Archbishop himself says the Mass.
This year it’s expected that 450 people from the city of Paris and up to 400 other French pilgrims will be in attendance.
The “Paris Mass” in Canberra is a fruitful outcome after a year of behind the scenes labour.
Shawn van der Linden from the Catholic Life Office of the Canberra-Goulburn diocese visited France last year and heard of the interest people in the Paris archdiocese had in maintaining the French connection with previous World Youth Days.
As well as meeting diocesan officials, van der Linden met with representatives of the Chemin Neuf (New Way) community, a Catholic community with an ecumenical vocation which was founded in Lyon, France in 1973. Chemin Neuf has more than 1000 members in 20 countries. Van de Linden describes them as a fascinating community whose approach is based on “Jesuit spirituality.”
There are expected 100 members of Chemin Neuf in Canberra for the July 13 Mass.
Canberra has already been visited by a television infrastructure crew from France who have investigated shooting locations in the Cathedral precinct and around Canberra.
Van der Linden says there will be 20 staff from France flying in and out for the day to operate the live broadcast van.
“They will be filming around the diocese as well on the day of the broadcast,” van der Linden said.
A key element in the organisation of the Mass is accommodation for the large number of visiting French. Several dioceses including Canberra-Goulburn have been organising “home stay” programs to accommodate an influx of overseas visitors in the days before World Youth Day in Sydney.
But the logistics of the Paris exercise meant it was necessary to take French visitors out of home stay around Canberra and house them in a communal setting, van der Linden explained.
He said the Catholic colleges of St Edmund’s and St Clare’s were happy to oblige. Male French pilgrims will now stay at St Edmund’s boys’ college while the females stay at St Clare’s, a girls college.
The archdiocese itself will provide the French visitors with their croissants for breakfast on the day the Mass. Van der Linden says this is not necessarily the beginning of a particular link between Canberra and Paris.
However he explained that Canberra’s Archbishop Mark Coleridge is a bishop who is “very open” to the gifts brought to the life of the Church by some of the new communities.
Dating back as far as the third century AD, the see of Paris is regarded as one of the most prestigious in Christendom. The diocese is believed to have been founded by the martyr St Denis, who was beheaded by heathens for converting so many people to Catholicism.