Friday, July 25, 2008

...And With Your Recognitio

As you were assured the presses would roll if need be, away we go. Again. So soon.

In a clear show of support for the ongoing English re-translation of the Missale Romanum, the Holy See has granted its recognitio (confirmation) to the first and most significant section of the re-rendered Mass texts, which had been approved by each of the nine Anglophone episcopal conferences in late 2006.

Announced earlier today by the USCCB -- the only conference to seek stand-alone recognitio for the Order of Mass I (OM1), as opposed to waiting for the entire 12-part package -- the timing is no accident, coming less than three weeks after the Missale project's second major chunk, the Proper of Seasons, was rejected on a mail ballot following a contentious debate among the American bishops at their Spring plenary in Orlando.

With a Proper vote still awaiting several other conferences, some possibly eager to echo the message sent by the Stateside prelates, today's development can also be seen as a warning shot for the rest to fall in line. Now back in its consultative phase on these shores, the Proper comes up for a repeat debate and vote by the US bench at its November meeting in Baltimore.

Comprising the standard set of prayers used at each Eucharist (Gloria, Creed, Eucharistic Prayers, dialogues, etc.), the USCCB approved OM1 at its Spring 2006 meeting in Los Angeles, but only after a number of amendments were accepted to secure the assent of skeptical pockets among the bishops. As similar amendments were submitted to Rome by each conference, and considering the Holy See's firm intent that, in a change from current practice, the new translations be precisely the same across the English-speaking world, the "guts" of what's actually been approved -- i.e. the dews and consubstantials of things... not to mention the precious chalices -- remain to be seen.

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments is free to reject proffered amendments on its own authority, and under the provisions of Liturgiam authenticam -- the 2001 instruction that inspired the current process -- the Holy See retains the "nuclear option" of imposing by fiat whatever translation it sees fit. What is clear, though, is that CDW has green-lighted one of the coming changes' most controversial elements: the reworkings of the people's reponses at Mass.

With eleven more Missale votes facing the bishops and a large-scale catechetical campaign already well in the planning, an "optimist[ic]" Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Paterson, chair of the USCCB's Committee on Divine Worship, told CNS earlier today that he was "hoping" to see the new texts implemented within "two years."

According to the US conference's current projections, the body's final vote on the entire package is expected to reach the floor at its November meeting in 2010. Pending the pace of recognitio for the full Missal, among other variables, rollout's most-often eyed for Advent 2011.

Full USCCB statement:
WASHINGTON— The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has received approval (recognitio) from the Holy See’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments for the new English-language translation of the Order of Mass (Ordo Missae).

This is the first section of the translation of the third edition of the Roman Missal. It includes most of the texts used in every celebration of the Mass, including the responses that will be said by the people.

In its letter, the Congregation pointed out that while the texts are binding, the approval “does not intend that these texts are to be put into use immediately.”

Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation, explained the reasons for providing the text at this time. The purpose is to provide “time for the pastoral preparation of priests, deacons and for appropriate catechesis of the lay faithful. It will likewise facilitate the devising of musical settings for parts of the Mass.”

The text is covered by copyright law and the Statutes of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy.

The more significant changes of the people’s parts are:
  • et cum spiritu tuo is rendered as “And with your spirit”
  • In the Confiteor, the text “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault” has been added
  • The Gloria has been translated differently and the structure is different from the present text
  • In the Preface dialogue the translation of “Dignum et justum est” is “It is right and just”
  • The first line of the Sanctus now reads “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts”
  • The response of the people at the Ecce Agnus Dei is “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
At this time, no date is available as to when the entire translation of the Roman Missal will be released.
We now return to the foreseen hiatus, already in progress.

You're the best, gang; forgive the silence and, as always, thanks for the "Are you OK/alive?" notes.

Gratefully, everything's fine, Boss is her usual undaunted self... and, well, your narrator's just trying to use summer for the reason God made it: as a gift of beauty, downtime, peace and -- most importantly -- renewal.

Suffice it to say, I've been needing an extended break for quite some time, especially after the packed news-cycle of recent months... and, even more, the almost four-year run of keeping these pages going on a daily (and, I pray, quality) basis. Bottom line: with Headquarters sealed shut for the next six weeks (and pretty much everything else on a low keel), I'm just keen to soak up the low season as best I can to breathe, to rest, to pray and recharge at length; having seen the spring's cycle of PopeTrips, appointments, etc. all safely into the rear-view, life's finally made its way into my "top story" slot... and, well, it's past time and hopefully no one minds too much.

Before we know it, friends, these days'll be gone and everything'll be back to chaos again. In the meantime, hope you're all getting to enjoy it all to its fullest.

If anything significant does happen to break along the way, the presses will, indeed, roll like it's Christmas -- because, of course, they do roll on Christmas 'round these parts (and in a big way). But barring that, more soon, thanks for everything -- especially to those of you who've kept this work afloat in every way -- and to each of you and yours, all the prayers and love in the world.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

It Happened. Again.

Four Australian survivors meet with B16, attend private papal Mass this morning:
The Pope listened to the stories of the victims and offered them consolation in the chapel of St Mary's Cathedral.

The unscheduled meeting followed his public apology at the weekend to all Australian victims.

"A group of victims [two men, two women] attended a papal private mass this morning," the Vatican said in a statement.

"He [the Pope] listened to their stories and offered them consolation.

"Assuring them of his spiritual closeness, he promised to continue to pray for them, their families and all victims. Through this paternal gesture, the Holy Father wished to demonstrate again his deep concern for all those who have suffered sexual abuse."...

The Archdiocese of Sydney said it had nominated three victims to attend the meeting.

"We are delighted that the Holy Father was able to spend time with victims of sexual abuse before his departure today," it said in a statement.

"This private meeting was organised late in our preparations. The Professional Standards Office of New South Wales nominated three victims to meet the Holy Father, and the meeting took place this morning following a private Mass which the Holy Father celebrated for them.

"The Holy Father's meeting with victims reflects the continuing commitment of the whole church in Australia to bring healing and justice to those who have been so terribly hurt by sexual abuse."

There have been 107 convictions for sexual abuse in the Catholic church in Australia but victims groups say there may be thousands of cases.
...meanwhile, Oz's lead survivor-advocate group -- and the father whose family's story dominated the abuse thread of this PopeTrip's backdrop -- expressed displeasure over their exclusion from the session:
Melbourne man Anthony Foster, whose two daughters were raped by a Catholic priest when they were in primary school, had returned from a holiday in Scotland last week to seek a meeting with the Pope about sexual abuse.

"I'm happy for the people who did meet him, if it helped them. But I think [the church] has lost an opportunity to speak to people like us and Broken Rites [support group] who truly represent the needs of all victims."

He was at the airport this morning in a last-ditch attempt to give the Pope his suggestions for improving the church's response to survivors of abuse.

Mr Foster and his wife, Christine, believe the church's handling of the issue contributed to the suicide in January of their daughter Emma, 26.
Only on the bus en route to the Pope's farewell at Sydney airport was the press pool alerted that the meeting had taken place.

* * *
SVILUPPO: After PM Kevin Rudd thanked him for becoming "one of us" during his days Down Under, Papa Ratzi gave the following farewell from a hangar at Sydney Airport:
Dear Friends,

Before I take my leave, I wish to say to my hosts how much I have enjoyed my visit here and how grateful I am for your hospitality. I thank the Prime Minister, the Honourable Kevin Rudd, for the kindness he has shown to me and to all the participants at World Youth Day. I also thank the Governor-General, Major-General Michael Jeffery, for his presence here and for graciously receiving me at Admiralty House at the start of my public engagements. The Federal Government and the State Government of New South Wales, as well as the residents and the business community of Sydney, have been most cooperative in their support of World Youth Day. An event of this kind requires an immense amount of preparation and organization, and I know that I speak on behalf of many thousands of young people when I express my appreciation and gratitude to you all. In characteristic Australian style, you have extended a warm welcome to me and to countless young pilgrims who have flocked here from every corner of the globe. To the host families in Australia and New Zealand who have made room for the young people in their homes, I am especially grateful. You have opened your doors and your hearts to the world's youth, and on their behalf I thank you.

The principal actors on the stage over these last few days, of course, have been the young people themselves. World Youth Day is their day. It is they who have made this a global ecclesial event, a great celebration of youth and a great celebration of what it is to be the Church, the people of God throughout the world, united in faith and love and empowered by the Spirit to bear witness to the risen Christ to the ends of the earth. I thank them for coming, I thank them for their participation, and I pray that they will have a safe journey home. I know that the young people, their families and their sponsors have in many cases made great sacrifices to enable them to travel to Australia. For this the entire Church is grateful.
As I look back over these stirring days, there are many scenes that stand out in my mind. I was deeply moved by my visit to the Mary MacKillop Memorial, and I thank the Sisters of Saint Joseph for the opportunity to pray at the Shrine of their Co-Foundress. The Stations of the Cross in the streets of Sydney were a powerful reminder that Christ loved us "to the end" and shared our sufferings so that we could share his glory. The meeting with the young people at Darlinghurst was a moment of joy and great hope, a sign that Christ can lift us out of the most difficult situations, restoring our dignity and enabling us to look forward to a brighter future. The meeting with ecumenical and interreligious leaders was marked by a spirit of genuine fraternity and a deep desire for greater collaboration in building a more just and peaceful world. And without doubt, the gatherings at Barangaroo and Southern Cross [Vigil/Mass] were high-points of my visit. Those experiences of prayer, and our joyful celebration of the Eucharist, were an eloquent testimony to the life-giving work of the Holy Spirit, present and active in the hearts of our young people. World Youth Day has shown us that the Church can rejoice in the young people of today and be filled with hope for the world of tomorrow.

Dear friends, as I depart from Sydney, I ask God to look down lovingly upon this city, this country and all its inhabitants. I pray that many of their number will be inspired by Blessed Mary MacKillop's example of compassion and service. And as I bid you farewell with deep gratitude in my heart, I say once again: May God bless the people of Australia!
Cue the CSN...

...and with that, it's really a wrap.

PHOTOS: AP/Mark Baker(1); AFP/Getty(2); AP/Andrew Brownbill(3)


And Now, the Cleanup

Word from Sydney tells of a kind of holy hangover today: most of the pilgrims are heading home, soon to be joined by the Pope -- but, just maybe, not without an "11th-hour meeting" with abuse victims first. The Volo Papale departs the city's airport at 10am local time (0000GMT, 8pm Sunday in the East).

As organizers began their allotted five weeks to return Randwick to its day job after its turn as site of the largest gathering in Australian history, it didn't take long for the focus to shift quickly forward; fresh off B16's formal designation of Madrid as host of WYD 2011, the Spanish capital's winning bid team announced the next gathering's dates as 15-21 August

SVILUPPO: Victims' meeting and farewell brief posted.

PHOTO: Reuters


Saturday, July 19, 2008

See You in Madrid

And it's official -- B16 has announced that the Spanish capital will host the 26th World Youth Day, with the celebration's 12th international gathering to take place in 2011.

(Sure, you folks've known since May... but whatever the case, mark your calendars.)

In case anyone's got some reading to catch up on, the week's PopeTexts:
And to watch, fullvideo of everything remains available on the WYD Vid-page (scroll down the right sidebar to access the archives).

Great job, Sydney... buona domenica a tutti... and, well, that's a wrap.

SVILUPPO: Actually, there is one final last word -- and quite the coda at that.

From the close of the Randwick Mass, the Pope's introduction to the Angelus:
Dear Young Friends,

In the beautiful prayer that we are about to recite, we reflect on Mary as a young woman, receiving the Lord’s summons to dedicate her life to him in a very particular way, a way that would involve the generous gift of herself, her womanhood, her motherhood. Imagine how she must have felt. She was filled with apprehension, utterly overwhelmed at the prospect that lay before her.

The angel understood her anxiety and immediately sought to reassure her. "Do not be afraid, Mary …. The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you" (Lk 1:30, 35). It was the Spirit who gave her the strength and courage to respond to the Lord’s call. It was the Spirit who helped her to understand the great mystery that was to be accomplished through her. It was the Spirit who enfolded her with his love and enabled her to conceive the Son of God in her womb.

This scene is perhaps the pivotal moment in the history of God’s relationship with his people. During the Old Testament, God revealed himself partially, gradually, as we all do in our personal relationships. It took time for the chosen people to develop their relationship with God. The Covenant with Israel was like a period of courtship, a long engagement. Then came the definitive moment, the moment of marriage, the establishment of a new and everlasting covenant. As Mary stood before the Lord, she represented the whole of humanity. In the angel’s message, it was as if God made a marriage proposal to the human race. And in our name, Mary said yes.

In fairy tales, the story ends there, and all "live happily ever after". In real life it is not so simple. For Mary there were many struggles ahead, as she lived out the consequences of the "yes" that she had given to the Lord. Simeon prophesied that a sword would pierce her heart. When Jesus was twelve years old, she experienced every parent’s worst nightmare when, for three days, the child went missing. And after his public ministry, she suffered the agony of witnessing his crucifixion and death. Throughout her trials she remained faithful to her promise, sustained by the Spirit of fortitude. And she was gloriously rewarded.

Dear young people, we too must remain faithful to the "yes" that we have given to the Lord’s offer of friendship. We know that he will never abandon us. We know that he will always sustain us through the gifts of the Spirit. Mary accepted the Lord’s "proposal" in our name. So let us turn to her and ask her to guide us as we struggle to remain faithful to the life-giving relationship that God has established with each one of us. She is our example and our inspiration, she intercedes for us with her Son, and with a mother’s love she shields us from harm.


20 JULY 2008

Dear Friends,

"You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you" (Acts 1:8). We have seen this promise fulfilled! On the day of Pentecost, as we heard in the first reading, the Risen Lord, seated at the right hand of the Father, sent the Spirit upon the disciples gathered in the Upper Room. In the power of that Spirit, Peter and the Apostles went forth to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth. In every age, and in every language, the Church throughout the world continues to proclaim the marvels of God and to call all nations and peoples to faith, hope and new life in Christ.

In these days I too have come, as the Successor of Saint Peter, to this magnificent land of Australia. I have come to confirm you, my young brothers and sisters, in your faith and to encourage you to open your hearts to the power of Christ's Spirit and the richness of his gifts. I pray that this great assembly, which unites young people "from every nation under heaven" (cf. Acts 2:5), will be a new Upper Room. May the fire of God's love descend to fill your hearts, unite you ever more fully to the Lord and his Church, and send you forth, a new generation of apostles, to bring the world to Christ! "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you". These words of the Risen Lord have a special meaning for those young people who will be confirmed, sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit, at today's Mass. But they are also addressed to each of us - to all those who have received the Spirit's gift of reconciliation and new life at Baptism, who have welcomed him into their hearts as their helper and guide at Confirmation, and who daily grow in his gifts of grace through the Holy Eucharist. At each Mass, in fact, the Holy Spirit descends anew, invoked by the solemn prayer of the Church, not only to transform our gifts of bread and wine into the Lord's body and blood, but also to transform our lives, to make us, in his power, "one body, one spirit in Christ".

But what is this "power" of the Holy Spirit? It is the power of God's life! It is the power of the same Spirit who hovered over the waters at the dawn of creation and who, in the fullness of time, raised Jesus from the dead. It is the power which points us, and our world, towards the coming of the Kingdom of God. In today's Gospel, Jesus proclaims that a new age has begun, in which the Holy Spirit will be poured out upon all humanity (cf. Lk 4:21). He himself, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, came among us to bring us that Spirit. As the source of our new life in Christ, the Holy Spirit is also, in a very real way, the soul of the Church, the love which binds us to the Lord and one another, and the light which opens our eyes to see all around us the wonders of God's grace.

Here in Australia, this "great south land of the Holy Spirit", all of us have had an unforgettable experience of the Spirit's presence and power in the beauty of nature. Our eyes have been opened to see the world around us as it truly is: "charged", as the poet says, "with the grandeur of God", filled with the glory of his creative love. Here too, in this great assembly of young Christians from all over the world, we have had a vivid experience of the Spirit's presence and power in the life of the Church. We have seen the Church for what she truly is: the Body of Christ, a living community of love, embracing people of every race, nation and tongue, of every time and place, in the unity born of our faith in the Risen Lord. The power of the Spirit never ceases to fill the Church with life! Through the grace of the Church's sacraments, that power also flows deep within us, like an underground river which nourishes our spirit and draws us ever nearer to the source of our true life, which is Christ. Saint Ignatius of Antioch, who died a martyr in Rome at the beginning of the second century, has left us a splendid description of the Spirit's power dwelling within us. He spoke of the Spirit as a fountain of living water springing up within his heart and whispering: "Come, come to the Father" (cf. Ad Rom., 6:1-9).

Yet this power, the grace of the Spirit, is not something we can merit or achieve, but only receive as pure gift. God's love can only unleash its power when it is allowed to change us from within. We have to let it break through the hard crust of our indifference, our spiritual weariness, our blind conformity to the spirit of this age. Only then can we let it ignite our imagination and shape our deepest desires. That is why prayer is so important: daily prayer, private prayer in the quiet of our hearts and before the Blessed Sacrament, and liturgical prayer in the heart of the Church. Prayer is pure receptivity to God's grace, love in action, communion with the Spirit who dwells within us, leading us, through Jesus, in the Church, to our heavenly Father. In the power of his Spirit, Jesus is always present in our hearts, quietly waiting for us to be still with him, to hear his voice, to abide in his love, and to receive "power from on high", enabling us to be salt and light for our world.

At his Ascension, the Risen Lord told his disciples: "You will be my witnesses ... to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8). Here, in Australia, let us thank the Lord for the gift of faith, which has come down to us like a treasure passed on from generation to generation in the communion of the Church. Here, in Oceania, let us give thanks in a special way for all those heroic missionaries, dedicated priests and religious, Christian parents and grandparents, teachers and catechists who built up the Church in these lands - witnesses like Blessed Mary MacKillop, Saint Peter Chanel, Blessed Peter To Rot, and so many others! The power of the Spirit, revealed in their lives, is still at work in the good they left behind, in the society which they shaped and which is being handed on to you.

Dear young people, let me now ask you a question. What will you leave to the next generation? Are you building your lives on firm foundations, building something that will endure? Are you living your lives in a way that opens up space for the Spirit in the midst of a world that wants to forget God, or even rejects him in the name of a falsely-conceived freedom? How are you using the gifts you have been given, the "power" which the Holy Spirit is even now prepared to release within you? What legacy will you leave to young people yet to come? What difference will you make? The power of the Holy Spirit does not only enlighten and console us. It also points us to the future, to the coming of God's Kingdom. What a magnificent vision of a humanity redeemed and renewed we see in the new age promised by today's Gospel! Saint Luke tells us that Jesus Christ is the fulfilment of all God's promises, the Messiah who fully possesses the Holy Spirit in order to bestow that gift upon all mankind. The outpouring of Christ's Spirit upon humanity is a pledge of hope and deliverance from everything that impoverishes us. It gives the blind new sight; it sets the downtrodden free, and it creates unity in and through diversity (cf. Lk 4:18-19; Is 61:1-2). This power can create a new world: it can "renew the face of the earth" (cf. Ps 104:30)!

Empowered by the Spirit, and drawing upon faith's rich vision, a new generation of Christians is being called to help build a world in which God's gift of life is welcomed, respected and cherished - not rejected, feared as a threat and destroyed. A new age in which love is not greedy or self-seeking, but pure, faithful and genuinely free, open to others, respectful of their dignity, seeking their good, radiating joy and beauty. A new age in which hope liberates us from the shallowness, apathy and self-absorption which deaden our souls and poison our relationships. Dear young friends, the Lord is asking you to be prophets of this new age, messengers of his love, drawing people to the Father and building a future of hope for all humanity.

The world needs this renewal! In so many of our societies, side by side with material prosperity, a spiritual desert is spreading: an interior emptiness, an unnamed fear, a quiet sense of despair. How many of our contemporaries have built broken and empty cisterns (cf. Jer 2:13) in a desperate search for meaning - the ultimate meaning that only love can give? This is the great and liberating gift which the Gospel brings: it reveals our dignity as men and women created in the image and likeness of God. It reveals humanity's sublime calling, which is to find fulfilment in love. It discloses the truth about man and the truth about life.

The Church also needs this renewal! She needs your faith, your idealism and your generosity, so that she can always be young in the Spirit (cf. Lumen Gentium, 4)! In today's second reading, the Apostle Paul reminds us that each and every Christian has received a gift meant for building up the Body of Christ. The Church especially needs the gifts of young people, all young people. She needs to grow in the power of the Spirit who even now gives joy to your youth and inspires you to serve the Lord with gladness. Open your hearts to that power! I address this plea in a special way to those of you whom the Lord is calling to the priesthood and the consecrated life. Do not be afraid to say "yes" to Jesus, to find your joy in doing his will, giving yourself completely to the pursuit of holiness, and using all your talents in the service of others!

In a few moments, we will celebrate the sacrament of Confirmation. The Holy Spirit will descend upon the confirmands; they will be "sealed" with the gift of the Spirit and sent forth to be Christ's witnesses. What does it mean to receive the "seal" of the Holy Spirit? It means being indelibly marked, inalterably changed, a new creation. For those who have received this gift, nothing can ever be the same! Being "baptized" in the one Spirit (cf. 1 Cor 12:13) means being set on fire with the love of God. Being "given to drink" of the Spirit means being refreshed by the beauty of the Lord's plan for us and for the world, and becoming in turn a source of spiritual refreshment for others. Being "sealed with the Spirit" means not being afraid to stand up for Christ, letting the truth of the Gospel permeate the way we see, think and act, as we work for the triumph of the civilization of love.

As we pray for the confirmands, let us ask that the power of the Holy Spirit will revive the grace of our own Confirmation. May he pour out his gifts in abundance on all present, on this city of Sydney, on this land of Australia and on all its people! May each of us be renewed in the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgement and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence, the spirit of wonder and awe in God's presence!

Through the loving intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, may this Twenty-third World Youth Day be experienced as a new Upper Room, from which all of us, burning with the fire and love of the Holy Spirit, go forth to proclaim the Risen Christ and to draw every heart to him! Amen.

PHOTOS: Robert Pearce/Sydney Morning Herald(1); AP/Mark Baker(2); Reuters(3,4); AP/Rob Griffith(5)

From the Outback to the Pope's Back: The Legend of "Marjorie's Bird"

With WYD's grand finale shortly to come -- the climactic closing liturgy at Randwick (vidstreams and Missal) begins at 10am local (2300GMT, 7pm ET Saturday) -- in one of the week's many nods to Australia's indigenous community, topping the stage at the major events has been a popular Aboriginal rendering of the Holy Spirit known as "Marjorie's Bird."

Now, with the design about to take on an even bigger visibility as a key element of the specially-designed vestments for tomorrow's liturgy, Marjorie Liddy, the Tiwi islander behind the image (who never painted before seeing its outline in the sky in 2004) tells her story:
It is not quite Our Lady of Fatima, and Liddy is a long way from beatification, but the legend of Marjorie's Bird has swept the Catholic Church in Australia, which has adopted the symbol as the main image of World Youth Day.

Cardinals and bishops from around the world will wear Marjorie's Bird on the back of their earthy-red chasubles, the outer garment of their vestments, and the Pope will stand under the image on the sanctuary surrounding the altar at Randwick before hundreds of thousands of pilgrims.

Whether the vestments of the Pope will contain the image of Marjorie's Bird is the "million-dollar question", World Youth Day organisers say.

Liddy, who lives at Condor Point on Melville Island, three hours' drive through eucalypt and cyprus forest from the closest airstrip, is awestruck that the image of the bird with the golden aura that she saw above her island under a dry-season sky four years ago has attracted the attention of the Vatican....

"When I first heard that on the island, I just grabbed a handful of dirt, threw it all over myself," she said. "I felt unworthy."

The Tiwi woman says she was touched by God after a day out fishing in the Timor Sea with her son. Under a full moon, close to 9pm on August 30, 2004, Liddy caught her son staring at the sky.

"My eyes nearly popped out of their sockets," she said. "There was a big painting of a bird in the sky, all done in dots. He had a yellow halo across his head. His wings touched from one end of the horizon to the other, just covered the whole sky."

Filled with joy, Liddy began to dance and sing a Tiwi Catholic hymn.

"My son was staring at me, looking at me like I was going nuts," she said.

"I said: 'Son, can you see what I can see?' He told me: 'A bird, Mum.'

"I said: 'That's the Holy Spirit.' And when I said that, that halo burst. Sparkles of gold like I had never seen in my life were just falling on the earth."

The Australian Catholic Church's director of evangelisation, Steve Lawrence, said he had received a strong indication that "the papal household is very happy" that Marjorie's Bird will adorn senior church figures' vestments.

But Mr Lawrence said it did not indicate the Vatican officially endorsed Liddy's vision, describing it as a "private revelation". Mr Lawrence, who has met Liddy, said he believed she had seen the enormous bird in the sky. "She's the genuine article, in my opinion," he said.

Darwin's recently retired bishop, Ted Collins, has no doubt the quiet, gentle woman he has known for almost 40 years saw an indigenous image of the Holy Spirit. "Marjorie is a lady that has been very close to God, and I believed her," Mr Collins said.

Liddy is one of hundreds of Aborigines brought up in missions, which multiplied across the Northern Territory from the mid-1930s. Many former missions retain strong connections to the Catholic Church. The late pope John Paul II visited Aborigines in Alice Springs during his 1986 tour of Australia, saying the church would be incomplete without the involvement of indigenous people.

Of 450 pilgrims travelling to Sydney from the Territory, 183 are Aboriginal. Poor families have raised up to $3000 to send their children to World Youth Day - the first time many had saved such a large sum.

Older people from communities such as Wadeye and Daly River, and the Tiwi Islands elders, have blended their traditional spirituality and dreamtime stories with their Catholic faith.

"Most Aboriginals feel the spirit in the bush," Liddy said.

"The Holy Spirit, the spirit of the land, it is the same. It's in the land for everybody. It is not just for us."
As a specially-named WYD VIP, Marjorie was present as the Pope made his official arrival on Thursday, and seemingly won't be far off the dais when her Bird takes flight later today.

While the new image will take the back of the vestment, on its front'll be the more traditional symbol of Australian faith, yet one likewise found in the stars: the Southern Cross.

PHOTO: Andrew Taylor/Sydney Morning Herald

19 JULY 2008

Dear Young People,

Once again this evening we have heard Christ’s great promise – "you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you". And we have heard his summons – "be my witnesses throughout the world" – (Acts 1:8). These were the very last words which Jesus spoke before his Ascension into heaven. How the Apostles felt upon hearing them, we can only imagine. But we do know that their deep love for Jesus, and their trust in his word, prompted them to gather and to wait; to wait not aimlessly, but together, united in prayer, with the women and Mary in the Upper Room (cf. Acts 1:14). Tonight, we do the same. Gathered before our much-travelled Cross and the icon of Mary, and under the magnificent constellation of the Southern Cross, we pray. Tonight, I am praying for you and for young people throughout the world. Be inspired by the example of your Patrons! Accept into your hearts and minds the sevenfold gift of the Holy Spirit! Recognize and believe in the power of the Spirit in your lives!

The other day we talked of the unity and harmony of God’s creation and our place within it. We recalled how in the great gift of baptism we, who are made in God’s image and likeness, have been reborn, we have become God’s adopted children, a new creation. And so it is as children of Christ’s light – symbolized by the lit candles you now hold – that we bear witness in our world to the radiance no darkness can overcome (cf. Jn 1:5).

Tonight we focus our attention on how to become witnesses. We need to understand the person of the Holy Spirit and his vivifying presence in our lives. This is not easy to comprehend. Indeed the variety of images found in scripture referring to the Spirit – wind, fire, breath – indicate our struggle to articulate an understanding of him. Yet we do know that it is the Holy Spirit who, though silent and unseen, gives direction and definition to our witness to Jesus Christ.

You are already well aware that our Christian witness is offered to a world which in many ways is fragile. The unity of God’s creation is weakened by wounds which run particularly deep when social relations break apart, or when the human spirit is all but crushed through the exploitation and abuse of persons. Indeed, society today is being fragmented by a way of thinking that is inherently short-sighted, because it disregards the full horizon of truth– the truth about God and about us. By its nature, relativism fails to see the whole picture. It ignores the very principles which enable us to live and flourish in unity, order and harmony.

What is our response, as Christian witnesses, to a divided and fragmented world? How can we offer the hope of peace, healing and harmony to those "stations" of conflict, suffering, and tension through which you have chosen to march with this World Youth Day Cross? Unity and reconciliation cannot be achieved through our efforts alone. God has made us for one another (cf. Gen 2:24) and only in God and his Church can we find the unity we seek. Yet, in the face of imperfections and disappointments – both individual and institutional – we are sometimes tempted to construct artificially a "perfect" community. That temptation is not new. The history of the Church includes many examples of attempts to bypass or override human weaknesses or failures in order to create a perfect unity, a spiritual utopia.

Such attempts to construct unity in fact undermine it! To separate the Holy Spirit from Christ present in the Church’s institutional structure would compromise the unity of the Christian community, which is precisely the Spirit’s gift! It would betray the nature of the Church as the living temple of the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Cor 3:16). It is the Spirit, in fact, who guides the Church in the way of all truth and unifies her in communion and in the works of ministry (cf. Lumen Gentium, 4). Unfortunately the temptation to "go it alone" persists. Some today portray their local community as somehow separate from the so-called institutional Church, by speaking of the former as flexible and open to the Spirit and the latter as rigid and devoid of the Spirit.

Unity is of the essence of the Church (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 813); it is a gift we must recognize and cherish. Tonight, let us pray for the resolve to nurture unity: contribute to it! resist any temptation to walk away! For it is precisely the comprehensiveness, the vast vision, of our faith – solid yet open, consistent yet dynamic, true yet constantly growing in insight – that we can offer our world. Dear young people, is it not because of your faith that friends in difficulty or seeking meaning in their lives have turned to you? Be watchful! Listen! Through the dissonance and division of our world, can you hear the concordant voice of humanity? From the forlorn child in a Darfur camp, or a troubled teenager, or an anxious parent in any suburb, or perhaps even now from the depth of your own heart, there emerges the same human cry for recognition, for belonging, for unity. Who satisfies that essential human yearning to be one, to be immersed in communion, to be built up, to be led to truth? The Holy Spirit! This is the Spirit’s role: to bring Christ’s work to fulfilment. Enriched with the Spirit’s gifts, you will have the power to move beyond the piecemeal, the hollow utopia, the fleeting, to offer the consistency and certainty of Christian witness!

Friends, when reciting the Creed we state: "We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life". The "Creator Spirit" is the power of God giving life to all creation and the source of new and abundant life in Christ. The Spirit sustains the Church in union with the Lord and in fidelity to the apostolic Tradition. He inspired the Sacred Scriptures and he guides God’s People into the fullness of truth (cf. Jn 16:13) In all these ways the Spirit is the "giver of life", leading us into the very heart of God. So, the more we allow the Spirit to direct us, the more perfect will be our configuration to Christ and the deeper our immersion in the life of the Triune God.

This sharing in God’s nature (cf. 2 Pet 1:4) occurs in the unfolding of the everyday moments of our lives where he is always present (cf. Bar 3:38). There are times, however, when we might be tempted to seek a certain fulfilment apart from God. Jesus himself asked the Twelve: "do you also wish to go away?" Such drifting away perhaps offers the illusion of freedom. But where does it lead? To whom would we go? For in our hearts we know that it is the Lord who has "the words of eternal life" (Jn 6:67-68). To turn away from him is only a futile attempt to escape from ourselves (cf. Saint Augustine, Confessions VIII, 7). God is with us in the reality of life, not the fantasy! It is embrace, not escape, that we seek! So the Holy Spirit gently but surely steers us back to what is real, what is lasting, what is true. It is the Spirit who leads us back into the communion of the Blessed Trinity!

The Holy Spirit has been in some ways the neglected person of the Blessed Trinity. A clear understanding of the Spirit almost seems beyond our reach. Yet, when I was a small boy, my parents, like yours, taught me the Sign of the Cross. So, I soon came to realize that there is one God in three Persons, and that the Trinity is the centre of our Christian faith and life. While I grew up to have some understanding of God the Father and the Son – the names already conveyed much – my understanding of the third person of the Trinity remained incomplete. So, as a young priest teaching theology, I decided to study the outstanding witnesses to the Spirit in the Church’s history. It was on this journey that I found myself reading, among others, the great Saint Augustine.

Augustine’s understanding of the Holy Spirit evolved gradually; it was a struggle. As a young man he had followed Manichaeism - one of those attempts I mentioned earlier, to create a spiritual utopia by radically separating the things of the spirit from the things of the flesh. Hence he was at first suspicious of the Christian teaching that God had become man. Yet his experience of the love of God present in the Church led him to investigate its source in the life of the Triune God. This led him to three particular insights about the Holy Spirit as the bond of unity within the Blessed Trinity: unity as communion, unity as abiding love, and unity as giving and gift. These three insights are not just theoretical. They help explain how the Spirit works. In a world where both individuals and communities often suffer from an absence of unity or cohesion, these insights help us remain attuned to the Spirit and to extend and clarify the scope of our witness.

So, with Augustine’s help, let us illustrate something of the Holy Spirit’s work. He noted that the two words "Holy" and "Spirit" refer to what is divine about God; in other words what is shared by the Father and the Son – their communion. So, if the distinguishing characteristic of the Holy Spirit is to be what is shared by the Father and the Son, Augustine concluded that the Spirit’s particular quality is unity. It is a unity of lived communion: a unity of persons in a relationship of constant giving, the Father and the Son giving themselves to each other. We begin to glimpse, I think, how illuminating is this understanding of the Holy Spirit as unity, as communion. True unity could never be founded upon relationships which deny the equal dignity of other persons. Nor is unity simply the sum total of the groups through which we sometimes attempt to "define" ourselves. In fact, only in the life of communion is unity sustained and human identity fulfilled: we recognize the common need for God, we respond to the unifying presence of the Holy Spirit, and we give ourselves to one another in service.

Augustine’s second insight – the Holy Spirit as abiding love – comes from his study of the First Letter of Saint John. John tells us that "God is love" (1 Jn 4:16). Augustine suggests that while these words refer to the Trinity as a whole they express a particular characteristic of the Holy Spirit. Reflecting on the lasting nature of love - "whoever abides in love remains in God and God in him" (ibid.) - he wondered: is it love or the Holy Spirit which grants the abiding? This is the conclusion he reaches: "The Holy Spirit makes us remain in God and God in us; yet it is love that effects this. The Spirit therefore is God as love!" (De Trinitate, 15.17.31). It is a beautiful explanation: God shares himself as love in the Holy Spirit. What further understanding might we gain from this insight? Love is the sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit! Ideas or voices which lack love – even if they seem sophisticated or knowledgeable – cannot be "of the Spirit". Furthermore, love has a particular trait: far from being indulgent or fickle, it has a task or purpose to fulfil: to abide. By its nature love is enduring. Again, dear friends, we catch a further glimpse of how much the Holy Spirit offers our world: love which dispels uncertainty; love which overcomes the fear of betrayal; love which carries eternity within; the true love which draws us into a unity that abides!

The third insight – the Holy Spirit as gift – Augustine derived from meditating on a Gospel passage we all know and love: Christ’s conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well. Here Jesus reveals himself as the giver of the living water (cf. Jn 4:10) which later is explained as the Holy Spirit (cf. Jn 7:39; 1 Cor 12:13). The Spirit is "God’s gift" (Jn 4:10) - the internal spring (cf. Jn 4:14), who truly satisfies our deepest thirst and leads us to the Father. From this observation Augustine concludes that God sharing himself with us as gift is the Holy Spirit (cf. De Trinitate, 15, 18, 32). Friends, again we catch a glimpse of the Trinity at work: the Holy Spirit is God eternally giving himself; like a never-ending spring he pours forth nothing less than himself. In view of this ceaseless gift, we come to see the limitations of all that perishes, the folly of the consumerist mindset. We begin to understand why the quest for novelty leaves us unsatisfied and wanting. Are we not looking for an eternal gift? The spring that will never run dry? With the Samaritan woman, let us exclaim: give me this water that I may thirst no more! (cf. Jn 4:15).

Dear young people, we have seen that it is the Holy Spirit who brings about the wonderful communion of believers in Jesus Christ. True to his nature as giver and gift alike, he is even now working through you. Inspired by the insights of Saint Augustine: let unifying love be your measure; abiding love your challenge; self-giving love your mission!

Tomorrow, that same gift of the Spirit will be solemnly conferred upon our confirmation candidates. I shall pray: "give them the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgement and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence … and fill them with the spirit of wonder and awe". These gifts of the Spirit – each of which, as Saint Francis de Sales reminds us, is a way to participate in the one love of God – are neither prizes nor rewards. They are freely given (cf. 1 Cor 12:11). And they require only one response on the part of the receiver: I accept! Here we sense something of the deep mystery of being Christian. What constitutes our faith is not primarily what we do but what we receive. After all, many generous people who are not Christian may well achieve far more than we do. Friends, do you accept being drawn into God’s Trinitarian life? Do you accept being drawn into his communion of love?

The Spirit’s gifts working within us give direction and definition to our witness. Directed to unity, the gifts of the Spirit bind us more closely to the whole Body of Christ (cf. Lumen Gentium, 11), equipping us better to build up the Church in order to serve the world (cf. Eph 4:13). They call us to active and joyful participation in the life of the Church: in parishes and ecclesial movements, in religious education classes, in university chaplaincies and other catholic organizations. Yes, the Church must grow in unity, must be strengthened in holiness, must be rejuvenated, must be constantly renewed (cf. Lumen Gentium, 4). But according to whose standard? The Holy Spirit’s! Turn to him, dear young people, and you will find the true meaning of renewal.

Tonight, gathered under the beauty of the night sky, our hearts and minds are filled with gratitude to God for the great gift of our Trinitarian faith. We recall our parents and grandparents who walked alongside us when we, as children, were taking our first steps in our pilgrim journey of faith. Now many years later, you have gathered as young adults with the Successor of Peter. I am filled with deep joy to be with you. Let us invoke the Holy Spirit: he is the artisan of God’s works (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 741). Let his gifts shape you! Just as the Church travels the same journey with all humanity, so too you are called to exercise the Spirit’s gifts amidst the ups and downs of your daily life. Let your faith mature through your studies, work, sport, music and art. Let it be sustained by prayer and nurtured by the sacraments, and thus be a source of inspiration and help to those around you. In the end, life is not about accumulation. It is much more than success. To be truly alive is to be transformed from within, open to the energy of God’s love. In accepting the power of the Holy Spirit you too can transform your families, communities and nations. Set free the gifts! Let wisdom, courage, awe and reverence be the marks of greatness!

PHOTOS: Reuters(1, 3, 4); AP/Rob Griffith(2); AFP/Getty(3)

Friday, July 18, 2008

Off to Randwick

As the Pope celebrated Mass in St Mary's, the pilgrims began heading en masse to Randwick Racecourse, where the expected turnout of a half-million for tonight's Vigil will transform the place into Australia's 10th largest city.

With seven hours to go 'til B16's arrival, the pre-Pope performances at the site have already gotten underway.

Suffice it to say, no jugglers this time.

SVILUPPO: Just in case anyone's still inclined to slam the whole shebang as nothing more than one big modernist "happy party," take note -- a bigger-than-expected deluge of penitents forced the last-minute setup of "emergency" confessionals:
Priests have taken plastic chairs and are sitting on the ground to take the "overwhelming" number of young people looking to confess their sins.

"There's too much. I came at one o'clock and there were so many people here I thought I had to help the other priests," said Father Bernard Speringer, a priest from Austria.

"The sisters had planned (for confession) but they were overwhelmed by so many."
Father Bernard sat forward in his black robes, playing with his program like rosary beads, as a queue of pilgrims banked up to use his makeshift confessional.

Other priests held the foreheads of pilgrims as they kneeled before them or crouched against merchandise tents for privacy.

Sharmilli Gunasingam was using confession for the second time, inspired by the other pilgrims around her.

"I'm glad I did it," she said.

"I realise that at a place like this you have got to do it."

Rufina Cheung uses confession about once a year and says it allows her to let go of her problems.

She was part of the queue growing near another priest.
PHOTO: AP/Andrew Brownbill(1); Stephen Siewert/Sydney Morning Herald(2)


"I Am Deeply Sorry"

From the Pope's homily at St Mary's Cathedral:
"I would like to pause to acknowledge the shame which we have all felt as a result of the sexual abuse of minors by some clergy and religious in this country.

"Indeed I am deeply sorry for the pain and suffering the victims have endured and I assure them that, as their pastor, I too share in their suffering.

"These misdeeds, which constitute so grave a betrayal of trust, deserve unequivocal condemnation. They have caused great pain, they have damaged the church's witness.

"I ask all of you to support and assist your bishops, and to work together with them in combating this evil. Victims should receive compassion and care, and those responsible for these evils must be brought to justice....

"As the church in Australia continues, in the spirit of the gospel, to address effectively this serious pastoral challenge, I join you in praying that this time of purification will bring about healing, reconciliation and ever-greater fidelity to the moral demands of the gospel."
Fulltext below.

PHOTO: AP/Rick Rycroft

19 JULY 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In this noble cathedral I rejoice to greet my brother Bishops and priests, and the deacons, religious and laity of the Archdiocese of Sydney. In a very special way, my greeting goes to the seminarians and young religious who are present among us. Like the young Israelites in today's first reading, they are a sign of hope and renewal for God's people; and, like those young Israelites, they will have the task of building up the Lord's house in the coming generation. As we admire this magnificent edifice, how can we not think of all those ranks of priests, religious and faithful laity who, each in his or her own way, contributed to the building up of the Church in Australia? Our thoughts turn in particular to those settler families to whom Father Jeremiah O'Flynn entrusted the Blessed Sacrament at his departure, a "small flock" which cherished and preserved that precious treasure, passing it on to the succeeding generations who raised this great tabernacle to the glory of God. Let us rejoice in their fidelity and perseverance, and dedicate ourselves to carrying on their labours for the spread of the Gospel, the conversion of hearts and the growth of the Church in holiness, unity and charity!

We are about to celebrate the dedication of the new altar of this venerable cathedral. As its sculpted frontal powerfully reminds us, every altar is a symbol of Jesus Christ, present in the midst of his Church as priest, altar and victim (cf. Preface of Easter V). Crucified, buried and raised from the dead, given life in the Spirit and seated at the right hand of the Father, Christ has become our great high priest, eternally making intercession for us. In the Church's liturgy, and above all in the sacrifice of the Mass consummated on the altars of the world, he invites us, the members of his mystical Body, to share in his self-oblation. He calls us, as the priestly people of the new and eternal covenant, to offer, in union with him, our own daily sacrifices for the salvation of the world.

In today's liturgy the Church reminds us that, like this altar, we too have been consecrated, set "apart" for the service of God and the building up of his Kingdom. All too often, however, we find ourselves immersed in a world that would set God "aside". In the name of human freedom and autonomy, God's name is passed over in silence, religion is reduced to private devotion, and faith is shunned in the public square. At times this mentality, so completely at odds with the core of the Gospel, can even cloud our own understanding of the Church and her mission. We too can be tempted to make the life of faith a matter of mere sentiment, thus blunting its power to inspire a consistent vision of the world and a rigorous dialogue with the many other visions competing for the minds and hearts of our contemporaries.

Yet history, including the history of our own time, shows that the question of God will never be silenced, and that indifference to the religious dimension of human existence ultimately diminishes and betrays man himself. Is that not the message which is proclaimed by the magnificent architecture of this cathedral? Is that not the mystery of faith which will be proclaimed from this altar at every celebration of the Eucharist? Faith teaches us that in Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word, we come to understand the grandeur of our own humanity, the mystery of our life on this earth, and the sublime destiny which awaits us in heaven (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 24). Faith teaches us that we are God's creatures, made in his image and likeness, endowed with an inviolable dignity, and called to eternal life. Wherever man is diminished, the world around us is also diminished; it loses its ultimate meaning and strays from its goal. What emerges is a culture, not of life, but of death. How could this be considered "progress"? It is a backward step, a form of regression which ultimately dries up the very sources of life for individuals and all of society.

We know that in the end - as Saint Ignatius of Loyola saw so clearly - the only real "standard" against which all human reality can be measured is the Cross and its message of an unmerited love which triumphs over evil, sin and death, creating new life and unfading joy. The Cross reveals that we find ourselves only by giving our lives away, receiving God's love as an unmerited gift and working to draw all men and women into the beauty of that love and the light of the truth which alone brings salvation to the world. It is in this truth - this mystery of faith - that we have been "consecrated" (cf. Jn 17:17-19), and it is in this truth that we are called to grow, with the help of God's grace, in daily fidelity to his word, within the life-giving communion of the Church. Yet how difficult is this path of consecration! It demands continual "conversion", a sacrificial death to self which is the condition for belonging fully to God, a change of mind and heart which brings true freedom and a new breadth of vision. Today's liturgy offers an eloquent symbol of that progressive spiritual transformation to which each of us is called. From the sprinkling of water, the proclamation of God's word and the invocation of all the saints, to the prayer of consecration, the anointing and washing of the altar, its being clothed in white and apparelled in light - all these rites invite us to re-live our own consecration in Baptism. They invite us to reject sin and its false allure, and to drink ever more deeply from the life-giving springs of God's grace.

Dear friends, may this celebration, in the presence of the Successor of Peter, be a moment of rededication and renewal for the whole Church in Australia! Here I would like to pause to acknowledge the shame which we have all felt as a result of the sexual abuse of minors by some clergy and religious in this country. These misdeeds, which constitute so grave a betrayal of trust, deserve unequivocal condemnation. They have caused great pain and have damaged the Church's witness. I ask all of you to support and assist your Bishops, and to work together with them in combating this evil. Victims should receive compassion and care, and those responsible for these evils must be brought to justice. It is an urgent priority to promote a safer and more wholesome environment, especially for young people. In these days marked by the celebration of World Youth Day, we are reminded of how precious a treasure has been entrusted to us in our young people, and how great a part of the Church's mission in this country has been dedicated to their education and care. As the Church in Australia continues, in the spirit of the Gospel, to address effectively this serious pastoral challenge, I join you in praying that this time of purification will bring about healing, reconciliation and ever greater fidelity to the moral demands of the Gospel.

I wish now to turn to the seminarians and young religious in our midst, with a special word of affection and encouragement. Dear friends: with great generosity you have set out on a particular path of consecration, grounded in your Baptism and undertaken in response to the Lord's personal call. You have committed yourselves, in different ways, to accepting Christ's invitation to follow him, to leave all behind, and to devote your lives to the pursuit of holiness and the service of his people.

In today's Gospel, the Lord calls us to "believe in the light" (Jn 12:36). These words have a special meaning for you, dear young seminarians and religious. They are a summons to trust in the truth of God's word and to hope firmly in his promises. They invite us to see, with the eyes of faith, the infallible working of his grace all around us, even in those dark times when all our efforts seem to be in vain. Let this altar, with its powerful image of Christ the Suffering Servant, be a constant inspiration to you. Certainly there are times when every faithful disciple will feel the heat and the burden of the day (cf. Mt 20:12), and the struggle of bearing prophetic witness before a world which can appear deaf to the demands of God's word. Do not be afraid! Believe in the light! Take to heart the truth which we have heard in today's second reading: "Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and for ever" (Heb 13:8). The light of Easter continues to dispel the darkness!

The Lord also calls us to walk in the light (cf. Jn 12:35). Each of you has embarked on the greatest and the most glorious of all struggles, to be consecrated in truth, to grow in virtue, to achieve harmony between your thoughts and ideals, and your words and actions. Enter sincerely and deeply into the discipline and spirit of your programmes of formation. Walk in Christ's light daily through fidelity to personal and liturgical prayer, nourished by meditation on the inspired word of God. The Fathers of the Church loved to see the Scriptures as a spiritual Eden, a garden where we can walk freely with God, admiring the beauty and harmony of his saving plan as it bears fruit in our own lives, in the life of the Church and in all of history. Let prayer, then, and meditation on God's word, be the lamp which illumines, purifies and guides your steps along the path which the Lord has marked out for you. Make the daily celebration of the Eucharist the centre of your life. At each Mass, when the Lord's Body and Blood are lifted up at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, lift up your own hearts and lives, through Christ, with him and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, as a loving sacrifice to God our Father.

In this way, dear young seminarians and religious, you yourselves will become living altars, where Christ's sacrificial love is made present as an inspiration and a source of spiritual nourishment to everyone you meet. By embracing the Lord's call to follow him in chastity, poverty and obedience, you have begun a journey of radical discipleship which will make you "signs of contradiction" (cf. Lk 2:34) to many of your contemporaries. Model your lives daily on the Lord's own loving self-oblation in obedience to the will of the Father. You will then discover the freedom and joy which can draw others to the Love which lies beyond all other loves as their source and their ultimate fulfilment. Never forget that celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom means embracing a life completely devoted to love, a love that enables you to commit yourselves fully to God's service and to be totally present to your brothers and sisters, especially those in need. The greatest treasures that you share with other young people - your idealism, your generosity, your time and energy - these are the very sacrifices which you are placing upon the Lord's altar. May you always cherish this beautiful charism which God has given you for his glory and the building up of the Church!

Dear friends, let me conclude these reflections by drawing your attention to the great stained glass window in the chancel of this cathedral. There Our Lady, Queen of Heaven, is represented enthroned in majesty beside her divine Son. The artist has represented Mary, as the new Eve, offering an apple to Christ, the new Adam. This gesture symbolizes her reversal of our first parents' disobedience, the rich fruit which God's grace bore in her own life, and the first fruits of that redeemed and glorified humanity which she has preceded into the glory of heaven. Let us ask Mary, Help of Christians, to sustain the Church in Australia in fidelity to that grace by which the Crucified Lord even now "draws to himself" all creation and every human heart (cf. Jn 12:32). May the power of his Holy Spirit consecrate the faithful of this land in truth, and bring forth abundant fruits of holiness and justice for the redemption of the world. May it guide all humanity into the fullness of life around that Altar, where, in the glory of the heavenly liturgy, we are called to sing God's praises for ever. Amen.

PHOTOS: AP/Rick Rycroft

Old and New, Indoors and Out: The Pope's Sydney Saturday

As the sun rises over Saturday morning in Sydney, the climax of this World Youth Day draws ever nearer... but not before its main attraction offers several flourishes of his own.

At the day's first event -- a Mass for bishops, seminarians and novices in St Mary's Cathedral to dedicate its new main altar -- Pope Benedict (shown above watching yesterday's Via Crucis) is expected to make his first intervention on Australian soil on the issue of clergy sex abuse. Having overshadowed the run-up to this week's festivities, it briefly returned to the top line again on Wednesday after the lead WYD organizer, Sydney Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Fisher OP, publicly panned those employing the celebrations for "dwelling crankily on old wounds."

Slated to begin at 9.30am local time (2330GMT; 7pm Eastern Friday), the liturgy will showcase the trappings of tradition. The pontiff will enter the historic Gothic cathedral to the strains of the Tu Es Petrus, the Creed and Te Deum will be chanted in Latin, Benedict clad in Mass vestments inspired by a 16th century image of St Martin of Tours. (Speaking of vestments, a more contemporary design -- featuring an Aboriginal depiction of the Holy Spirit -- is said to be on-deck for Sunday's closing Eucharist.)

After lunch with the Australian bishops and a notably-long window (four hours) without any public activities planned, B16 & Co. will make their first trip to Randwick Racecourse -- where, earlier in the day, the 200,000 or so pilgrims made their way by foot, crossing Harbour Bridge on their route from the city center. There, the Pope will preside at the traditional WYD Saturday Vigil -- a two-hour event of prayer and witness talks, closing with adoration and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. At the evening event (beginning at 7pm local; 0900GMT 5am Eastern), the 24 Confirmation candidates who'll receive the sacrament at the Sunday liturgy are expected to make their first appearance, flanking Papa Ratzi during the adoration rite.

Alongside the aforementioned webstreams with video coverage (both live and on-demand), those especially keen to follow along with both the Mass and Vigil might find the Visit Missal -- the Pope's own book of ceremonies for the trip -- of use; the former can be found beginning on p. 55, and the evening rite from p. 109. What's more, the impressions of the pilgrims will provide an even more intimate glimpse into the days ahead; among the many places to find 'em, there's the CNS WYD page,, pilgrimage journals from Indianapolis, San Antone, the Sisters of Life, two from Toronto and, of course, the "virtual pilgrimage" compiled a horde of youth reporters and others... with texts and everything else to appear here as they drop.

A Happy Weekend to one and all and, as always, thanks for reading. Hope everyone's enjoying it.

PHOTO: Reuters(1)


The Missing

Having been expected for this week's events Down Under -- and gotten a lot of help and visibility to make their pilgrimage a reality -- the group of Chaldean Catholics slated to attend from Iraq have been held back:
Salina Hasham, a World Youth Day employee, has been working for months trying to get the 170-member Iraqi delegation to Sydney.

At first, it seemed the Australian government would not issue any visas to the group, Hasham said. Then 10 visas were granted and, finally, a total of 25 visas were approved.

But as of July 17, she said, "they are stuck in Iraq. They have been at the airport for days, but flight after flight has been canceled."

"It appears forces inside Iraq do not want them to come," she said.

Hasham said the Iraqi youths were committed to celebrating World Youth Day even if they have to do it by praying together at home and organizing their own events.

"But the 25 (who received visas) are still keen to represent their country in Sydney," she said.

Hasham expressed hope that they will arrive before the July 20 closing Mass....

Wasem Hermiz, 28, one of the Sydney Chaldeans, said he had been told that the Iraqi pilgrims had been refused visas because it was suspected that they would seek political asylum in Australia.

The Iraqi delegation "first became aware there was a problem two weeks ago. They are devastated that it couldn't be resolved. They have done a lot of preparations for World Youth Day in Sydney -- and now it has come to nothing," he said.

Hermiz said the group included priests, religious brothers and sisters, and at least one bishop.

While Hasham said those with a visa still were trying to get out of Iraq, Hermiz said he had heard that "faced with the dilemma of only some in the group coming to Australia, they all declined to come."

"They will be carrying on in the World Youth Day spirit in Iraq with a week of reflections and prayers. They have asked all Catholics to please remember them in their prayers," he said.
many people lack the food
and drink that bring true joy.
They do not know,
or have forgotten,
how you wish to meet them
in the Eucharist
and share with them
your humanity and divinity.
Help us to appreciate the great gift
of your body and your blood,
the key to your Passion and ours.
Draw us into your real presence at Mass.
Help us to understand
that communion with you
also means union
with all those to whom you give yourself.
Make us generous and insightful
as we try to walk in your footsteps.
--Benedict XVI
Prayer for the Via Crucis
18 July 2008

(Fullvideo by Station: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13)...

Held before crowds estimated at a half-million, tomorrow morning's headline in the host-city's Morning Herald reads that, on "One good Friday, Sydney gave its heart to Jesus":
For three hours, Sydney was transformed into the streets of ancient Jerusalem during the spectacular re-enactment of the last hours of Jesus Christ as part of a landmark event in the World Youth Day celebrations. The Last Supper of Jesus and His disciples was conducted on the steps of St Mary's Cathedral, Jesus was condemned to death at the NSW Art Gallery, whipped and scourged at the Opera House, made a spectacular entrance by barge under Sydney Harbour Bridge to Cockle Bay and was crucified at East Darling Harbour.

At the crucifixion, it was a much more solemn crowd than that which estatically welcomed the Pope to Sydney or joined the Sydney Archbishop, Cardinal George Pell, for the World Youth Day opening Mass.

In fading light the 27-year-old actor, Alfio Stutio, was dragged to centre stage by his centurion guards, stripped of his robes then tied to a wooden and metal cross.

In what has been likened to Cathy Freeman's lighting of the Olympic cauldron, but without the mechanical hiccup, the Cross of Calvary was hydraulically raised and Jesus suffered His final torment overlooking picturesque Sydney Harbour bathed in an ephemeral sunset afterglow. Amazing Grace was sung, the Lord's Prayer recited and Jesus, in a bitter wind, promised paradise to the thief and died. His body was brought down from the cross and cradled by a weeping Mary. The dramatic ending pointed pilgrims to the message of Christ's resurrection, which will be celebrated at the closing Mass of World Youth Day at Randwick racecourse tomorrow, presided over by Pope Benedict XVI.

As Christ was held aloft on the cross last night, pilgrims thronging the waters edge were transfixed. Renee Azzopardi, 22, from Hurstville Grove, said: "It is spiritual. It is fun at the same time. It is an extraordinary event. It is pretty cool."

Jan Storms, 46, from St Paul, Minnesota, who had brought 35 pilgrims with her, said she thought the crowd reacted just as the crowd would have at the time Christ died, talking, buying food and observing the spectacle....

Unlike Mel Gibson's film depiction, The Passion Of The Christ, the violence was deliberately toned down. It was nonetheless harrowing. Under the watchful gaze of the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, standing on the Opera House steps, Jesus' hands were tied. Flanked by Roman centurions He was lifted, then lowered beneath the stage through a trapdoor, a deliberate allusion to the modern torture methods of Abu Ghraib. When He was lifted again it was by His feet. He was stripped but for a loin cloth, His body scarred by the lash.

The crown of thorns was placed on His head, and Jesus mouthed a silent scream. He and the cross were then taken by barge across the water to Darling Harbour, where thousands waited.

At station seven at Darling Harbour, Jesus stumbled on pontoons that will soon be home to luxury boats and yachts for the Sydney boat show. Jesus was helped by Simon of Cyrene, played by an Aboriginal actor. Among the wailing women were indigenous actors, a reference to the suffering of the Aboriginal community.

A small group of 80 volunteer actors played the central parts of the Passion narrative. The Stations of the Cross are one of the most familiar Catholic devotional exercises, at which the faithful focus their prayers successively on 14 scenes of what is known as Jesus' Passion - from the Latin word passio, meaning "suffering".

The church changed the Stations of Cross to a Vatican-approved scriptural version based on the New Testament to make it more appealing to all Christians. Scriptural texts, reflections and video commentaries were carefully worked so that the crucifixion did not incite anti-Semitic feeling.
PHOTOS: Getty Images(1-4); WYD2008(5)

At Table

During today's traditional papal lunch with 12 WYD pilgrims, B16 got some gifts from his tablemates -- including one that, if photographed with him, would be worth millions... to the Walt Disney Co.:
Armando Cervantes, the 27-year-old director of youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Orange, Calif., presented the pope with a classic from the top tourist destination in his diocese -- Disneyland.

The Mickey Mouse hat, featuring the famous character's big ears, was inscribed "Benedict XVI," Cervantes said, adding that the pope did not try it on, but he was smiling.

Cervantes also gave the pope a copy of the U.S. bishops' Book of Blessings, photos from the pope's April trip to the United States, a California Angels baseball and a little "stress ball."

"The pope was squeezing it, but his assistants took the gifts away quickly," Cervantes said.
The menu for the meal in the rectory of St. Mary's Cathedral included sweet potato and pear soup; chicken, new potatoes and snow peas; and a lemon-and-passion-fruit-meringue pie.

Cervantes, chosen to represent North America at the papal table, said he managed to eat the meal pretty much without looking at it.

"I kept looking up to make sure it was all real and that he (the pope) hadn't disappeared," he said.
PHOTOS: Reuters