WYD09, Palm Sunday, Vatican City. Perth pilgrims get some one-on-one time with Pope Benedict XVI. Perth Catholic Youth Ministry director Anita Parker reports.
On Palm Sunday, April 5, 2009, 60 Australian delegates from around the country represented their diocese at World Youth Day (WYD) 2009 in Rome, for the handover ceremony of the WYD Cross and Icon to the next host country, Spain.
The delegation was led in Rome by Cardinal George Pell and Bishop Anthony Fisher OP and also included Bishop Julian Porteous, Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney and Bishop Tim Costelloe, Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne.
The youth delegates included Alfio Stuto, the actor who played Jesus in the WYD08 Stations of the Cross through the streets of Sydney, and a number of the young volunteers who devoted six months to the journey of the Cross and Icon around Australia in 2007-2008, and workers from various WYD offices in Australia.
Perth was represented by Olivia Lavis and myself and Broome Diocese was represented by Rebekah Treacy.
Mark Heiss, a young Aboriginal man from Sydney, carried the message stick in Rome – an important element of the journey of the Cross and Icon that invited young Indigenous people to participate in WYD08. The message stick was given as a gift for the Holy Father from the Indigenous peoples of Australia.
The week long pilgrimage included official functions with the Pontifical Council for the Laity (PCL). The day of hosting with the PCL was the 4th anniversary of the late Pope John Paul II’s death.
A special tour of the Vatican included a private prayer in front of John Paul II’s tomb for the young Australians and a memorial Mass with Pope Benedict XVI in St Peters Basilica. That evening Cardinal Rylko, the President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, hosted a ‘thank you’ dinner for the Australian delegation to celebrate the graces received by all at Sydney in July 2008.
“It was a beautiful and unexpected opportunity. Meeting the Holy Father was a once in a lifetime experience and gave me the opportunity to thank him…”
On the eve of Palm Sunday the delegation was joined by Tim Fischer, Australian Ambassador to the Vatican and Amanda Vanstone, Australian Ambassador to Italy for the unveiling of the new plans for the pilgrim house in Rome ‘Dormus Australia’ or ‘Australia House’.
A Mass was celebrated in the chapel and tours given showing the plans for the building renovations to turn the centre into accommodation and a centre for Australian pilgrims to gather.
On April 22, 1984, Pope John Paul II handed over the WYD Cross to the young people of the world. This year, the 25th anniversary celebrations were celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI.
The Australian delegation was involved in both the Palm Sunday Mass and the Handover of the Cross and Icon. I was chosen to present the gifts to the Holy Father at the Palm Sunday Mass.
A brief conversation and blessing was exchanged as the gifts were brought forward. It was a beautiful and unexpected opportunity. Meeting the Holy Father was a once in a lifetime experience and gave me the opportunity to thank him for the amazing experience of sharing WYD08 with all the young people from around the world gathered in Sydney.
After the Mass the Pope’s WYD message was shared with tens of thousands of young people from around the world gathered in St Peter’s Square.
The theme of the 2009 WYD message was “We have set our hope on the living God” (1Tim 4:10).
The theme of Hope calls the young people to have faith in Jesus Christ “who lives with us and in us” to help us through times of trouble and as young people to hope in the future and “cherish ideals, dreams and plans.”
In the WYD message the Pope also makes reference to St Paul. In this year dedicated to the great evangelist, the pilgrimage group visited the renowned Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls in Rome.
Concurrently in Rome, meetings were being held to share the reports from Sydney’s WYD office and the proposals from Spain. This was held with an international delegation and the Pontifical Council for the Laity. For young Australians, the Palm Sunday Mass was the opportunity to meet the young Spanish planning for WYD 2011.
The youth pilgrimage to Rome visited the San Lorenzo (St Lawrence) Youth Centre in Rome that John Paul II opened in 1983. This houses the original WYD Cross and young pilgrims can visit the centre to pray with the WYD Cross and Icon when it’s not travelling the world.
The first-ever live webcast of the ceremony from St Peter’s Basilica in Rome marked the final official event of World Youth Day Sydney 2008. It was viewed live around the world and in local Parishes through the international online network www.xt3.com.
This new step in digital technology was an exciting move forward in the Church’s path of evangelisation.
To see parts of the pilgrimage journey XT3 video archives includes the Australian delegations Assisi trip, Australia House and multiple interviews from the Australian young people and the Palm Sunday celebrations at the Vatican.
Both Olivia and myself stayed in Rome for Holy Week and joined an international gathering of 100 young people on the Annual Emmanuel School of Mission Easter Retreat.
Teachings from the French based community, street evangelisation and beautiful liturgies including Papal celebrations during Holy Week made it feel like WYD at Easter time. It was a very moving retreat experience.
The whole pilgrimage away was a great spiritual end to the WYD08 journey, and now we look forward to the Church beyond WYD08 and enlivening youth ministry across our nation.