An estimated 500,000 people gathered on the shores of Sydney Harbour to watch the Pope's official arrival for World Youth Day
PAPAL MASS AT BARANGAROO
BY CINDY WOODEN, CNS
A SMILING Pope greeted hundreds of thousands of young pilgrims as he sailed through Sydney Harbour into Barangaroo during his official arrival for the 23rd World Youth Day.
Waving pilgrims lined the shore of Sydney Harbour, flags fluttered in Barangaroo and people stood on the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, watching the Pope's "boat-acade" come into the harbour. An estimated 500,000 people came to watch the Pope's official arrival. Ten boats carrying young people followed the Holy Father's cruise ship, which was filled with clergy and specially selected youngsters in national dress.
Disregarding protocol, the Pope left the throne on the bow of the boat to speak to the young people who had been introduced to him as he left Rose Bay. They stood together at the boat's' railings, chatting and waving smiling, as the boat-a-cade entered the harbour.
The Pope and the youngsters were both visibly moved by their personal encounters. One young Papua New Guinean could not be moved from his place at the Pope's elbow for the entire journey. Once on shore, a group of Aborigines performed a dance for the Pope, before he moved up to the sanctuary where Cardinal George Pell celebrated the opening Mass for WYD08 on Tuesday.
Sydney's Cardinal Pell greeted the Pope on behalf of Australian Catholics, focusing on his role as the successor of Peter. The cardinal pointed out that there had been a pope in Rome 900 years before there was a king of England and 1,700 years before the Gospel first came to Oceania. After the opening prayers and reading from the Gospel of Matthew (20:25-28), Pope Benedict addressed the pain suffered by the Aborigines and indigenous peoples of Australia and Oceania, saying that the time for healing had come.
He said: "I am deeply moved to stand on your land, knowing the suffering and injustices it has borne, but aware too of the healing and hope that are now at work, rightly bringing pride to all Australian citizens."
As had been expected Pope Benedict then spoke about Creation, drawing the parallel between the scars affecting both the physical environment and the social environment.
Looking out of the window of the papal plane on the flight to Australia he said he was filled with a sense of awe at the beauty and goodness of Creation with men and women at its heart. But under the beauty there are scars, he said. Erosion, deforestation, "the squandering of the world's mineral and ocean resources in order to fuel an insatiable consumption" affected the physical environment, but society too has its scars affecting the innate good in people. And, he said, the same is true of people, who
have achieved so much in so many ways, yet in other ways are destroying themselves or others.
"Some of you excel in studies, sport, music or dance and drama, others of you have a keen sense of social justice and ethics, and many of you take up service and voluntary work," he said.
"All of us, young and old, have those moments when the innate goodness of the human person — perhaps glimpsed in the gesture of a little child or an adult's readiness to forgive — fins us with profound joy and gratitude."
"Yet such moments do not last. So again, we ponder. And we discover that not only the natural but also the social environment — the
habitat we fashion for ourselves — has its scan; wounds indicating that something is amiss. Here, too, in our personal lives and in our communities, 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 spoke about alcohol and drug abuse, the exhaltation of violence, sexual degradation and exploitation.
Pope Benedict XVI said: "There is also something sinister which stems from the fact that freedom and tolerance are so often separated from truth. This is fuelled by the notion, widely held today, that there are no absolute truths to guide our lives.
"Relativism, by indiscriminately giving value to practically everything, has made 'experience' allimportant. Yet experiences, detached from any considerntion 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."
"Dear friends," Pope Benedict told the young people, "life is not governed by chance; it is not random.
"Your very existence has been willed by God, blessed and given a purpose. Life is not just a succession of events or experiences, helpful though many of them are," he said. Life, he told them, "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.
"Do not be fooled by those who see you as just another consumer in a market of undifferentiated possibilities, where choice itself becomes the good, novelty usurps beauty, and subjective experience displaces truth.
"Christ offers more indeed he offers everything. Only he who is the Truth can be the Way and hence also the Life. Thus the "way" which the Apostles brought to the ends of the earth is life in Christ. This is the life of the Church. And the entrance to this life, to the Christian way, is baptism."
The Pope strongly criticised a world which pushed religion out of the public sphere.
"This secularist vision seeks to explain human life and shape society with little or no reference to the Creator. It presents itself as neutral, impartial and inclusive of everyone. But in reality, like every ideology, secularism imposes a worldview.
"If God is irrelevant to public life then society will be shaped in a godless image. When God is eclipsed, our ability to recognise the natural order, purpose, and the 'good' begins to wane. What was ostensibly promoted as human ingenuity soon manifests itself as folly, greed and selfish exploitation. And so we have become more and more aware of our need for humility before the delicate complexity of God's world."
He finished the address by saying that "God's creation is one and it is good" but that environmental and social questions could not be answered when separated from an understanding of the innate and inviolable dignity of human life, conferred by God.
He said: "Our world has grown weary of greed, exploitation and division, of the tedium of false idols and piecemeal responses and the pain of false promises.
"Our hearts and minds are yearning for a vision of life where love endures, where gifts are shared, where unity is built, where freedom finds meaning in truth and where identity is found in respectful communion."
One English pilgrim said: "At the end of the short welcoming liturgy, we all joined in the singing of the World Youth Day theme, its call to 'receive the power from the Holy Spirit... to be a light unto the world' now engraved on a hundred thousand hearts. On the big screens, the Holy Father seemed visibly moved." Earlier that day the Pope was formally welcomed to Australia by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd with a 21-gun salute and a military band in the garden of Sydney's Government House.
Mr Rudd welcomed the Pope as "an apostle of peace", a defender of the world's poor and "a voice of hope at a time in our planet's dealings when hope is needed most of all".
Mr Rudd said it was appropriate that World Youth Day was being celebrated in Australia because, like the Catholic pilgrims, Australia is young and includes people from every part of the world.
Pope Benedict praised the Prime Minister for apologising on behalf of the Australian government for past offences against the continent's indigenous people. He also praised him for making a commitment to "close the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians regarding life expectancy, education achievement and economic opportunity".