17-July-2008 -- Catholic News Agency |

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Half a million people fill Sydney to greet Pope Benedict XVI on the first day of his official WYD08 program.

Sydney, Jul 17, 2008 / 07:00 am (CNA) .- The Papal “Boat-a-cade” arrived at Barangaroo this afternoon, in midst of jubilant crowds after sailing around Sydney Harbour, where the Pope waved to tens of thousands people who had lined the foreshore to catch a glimpse of the Pontiff.

“His Holiness stood waving in full-view of the crowd on board the vessel,” said WYD08 spokesman Father Mark Podesta. The Papal Boat carried approximately 530 people including 168 international pilgrims.

After thanking the indigenous people of Australia for their stirring welcome to the country, the Holy Father addressed the international and local pilgrims at the site, who had waited hours to be present at this arrival.

“Standing before me I see a vibrant image of the Universal Church. The variety of nations and cultures from which you hail shows that indeed Christ’s Good News is for everyone; it has reached the ends of the earth.”

“Yet I know too that a good number of you are still seeking a spiritual homeland… To you I wish to offer encouragement: step forward into Christ’s loving embrace; recognise the Church as your home.”

The Papal message also made special mention of the sick, mentally ill, youth in prison and those struggling on the margins of society. To them he said: “Jesus is close to you! Feel his healing embrace, his compassion and mercy!”

The Pope also evoked images of the early Church and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles in the upper room as part of the theme of WYD08 “Receive the Power.”

“At that extraordinary moment, which gave birth to the Church, the confusion and fear that had gripped Christ’s disciples were transformed into a vigorous conviction and sense of purpose.”

The Pope also focussed on the need to preserve the environment as he related his appreciation of the world and “the majestic splendour” he saw from his plane flight to Australia.

“There are also scars which mark the surface of our earth, erosion, deforestation, the squandering of the world’s mineral and ocean resources in order to fuel an insatiable consumption.”

The Pope also warned that “something is amiss” in the social environment of the world we “fashion for ourselves.”

“We can encounter a hostility, something dangerous; a poison which threatens to corrode what is good, reshape who we are, and distort the purpose for which we have been created.” He cited alcohol, drug abuse, violence and sexual degradation passed off by the media as “entertainment” as examples.

The lure of relativism and secularism was also directly touched on by the Pope.

“Relativism, by indiscriminately giving value to practically everything, has made ‘experience’ all-important. Yet, experiences, detached from any consideration of what is good or true, can lead, not to genuine freedom, but to moral or intellectual confusion, to a lowering of standards, to a loss of self-respect, and even to despair.”

“Life is not just a succession of events or experiences, helpful though many of them are. It is a search for the true, the good and the beautiful. It is to this end that we make our choices; it is for this that we exercise our freedom; it is in this- in truth, in goodness, and in beauty- that we find happiness and joy.”

“Christ offers more! Indeed he offers everything. Only he who is the Truth can be the Way and hence also the Life” told the Pope to pilgrims as the sun set upon Barangaroo.

Emphatically, the Pope called on pilgrims not to leave God on the sidelines. “But in reality, like every ideology, secularism imposes a world-view.”

“If God is irrelevant to public life, then society will be shaped in a godless image, and debate and policy concerning the public good will be driven by more consequences than by principles grounded in truth.”

The Papal message concluded reminding all that “the concerns for non-violence, sustainable development, justice and peace, and care for our environment… cannot however, be understood apart from a profound reflection upon the innate dignity of every human life from conception to natural death.”

The Pope then gave special messages in Italian, French, German, Spanish and Portuguese.

Ruth, a fifteen year old, from Cairns in Queensland Australia who rode the Papal boat-a-cade as a local pilgrim said of the Papal arrival, “Everyone was cheering. There was helicopters everywhere, and you could just feel the excitement.”

Bishop Gabriel from Nigera said the arrival was "beautiful." "It was lucky for the young ones on stage to be able to see the Pope properly."

Motorcade

Pope Benedict XVI, after giving a blessing to pilgrims, boarded his Pope-mobile where he travelled around the city’s streets where yet more crowds cheered the Pope before he returned to St Mary’s Cathedral house where he will live with Cardinal George Pell for the rest of World Youth Day celebrations.

Tomorrow Sydney will host the spectacular launch of Stations of the Cross, where the final hours of Jesus’ life are played out through CBD streets, beginning at St Mary’s Cathedral and concluding at the northern end of Barangaroo.

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