More on Sydney
I don't necessarily have "bad vibes" about WYD in Sydney -- Pell, by the by, yesterday confirmed that the Pope will be in attendance at an event three years down the road -- but, at first look, it presents the risk of being one more instance of more tears being shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones.
George Pell enters the crucible of WYD planning and execution with a more elevated international profile -- not to mention cult following -- than that of any other WYD host bishop to date. His outspokenness makes Meisner (no Mahony, he is) look like, um, Pat Power. And it's that very record which raises the bar on him, and on the Australian church, to deliver a solid turnout which embraces both the singer and the song.
I like Pell -- as a journalist, I have to, because the man is impeccable at providing delicious copy like clockwork. As many archconservatives do, he's got a great personality, and when the day comes that I can have a smoke and a drink with him and talk Ballarat football, my life would be complete. If he weren't a cardinal, he'd be Russell Crowe, minus the throwing phones at hotel staff bit. But think about it: when the host of the next great festival talks to Allen about "Increasing numbers of youth [having] burnt their fingers on what we might call, somewhat provocatively, 'neo-pagan alternatives,' and they're looking for something," his guests better agree hook, line and sinker. If they don't, the enterprise doesn't float. Again, Pell's strong approach stratospherically raises the expectations, and he either stands to gain everything or lose a ton. He's got three years and we'll see how it shakes out. I'll be there to watch.
In the meantime, he's got his favored hand to run the planning shop -- his 45 year-old auxiliary bishop, Anthony Fisher, a Dominican transported from Pell's hometown of Melbourne. An Oxford doctorate in bioethics, a work history as an attorney and his youth have given Fisher rising-star buzz in Aussie and beyond. He, too, faces his biggest test yet as the world returns Sydneyside.
Time will prove this a fascinating choice.