Wednesday, July 16, 2008

"Super Holy Thursday": The Papal Spectacle Begins

It's tomorrow morning in Sydney, and the World Youth Day celebrations ramp toward their peak today with Pope Benedict's formal arrival to preside over the gathering's final four days -- a day the Aussie church has apparently dubbed "Super Holy Thursday."

At 9am local time (2300GMT; 7pm Wednesday ET), the pontiff -- who, after donning the cap of a retired policeman he met yesterday, was transferred to his temporary digs at St Mary's Cathedral -- will receive the welcome of the Australian state at Sydney's Government House, where he'll give his first address of the eight-day visit. Then it's off to the tomb of Bl Mary MacKillop (1842-1909), foundress of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, for a prayer.

(Those hoping for MacKillop's imminent canonization, however, will seemingly have to wait -- the Holy See's top spokesman said yesterday that while the Pope "knows the process is going on," he probably won't speak about it.)

After courtesy meetings with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and the head of state -- the Governor-General Sir Michael Jeffery -- and the customary riposo at Cathedral House, an Aboriginal group of singers and dancers will welcome the papal party at Rose Bay shortly after 2pm (0400GMT; Midnight ET), from which point the Pope will board a cruise ship to lead the "boat-a-cade" that'll bring him into Sydney Harbour to Barangaroo, site of yesterday's opening Mass. There, Benedict will have his first opportunity to speak to the over 150,000 pilgrims in attendance.

By 5pm, the Pope will be transported back to St Mary's, with no further commitments scheduled for the day... no public ones, that is.

Per usual, all will be streamed live via the EWTN and Salt + Light feeds, and available shortly thereafter on demand at the official WYD video page.

Texts and more as it happens...

...and away we go.

PHOTO: Reuters