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Memories of World Youth Day, 2008


St Richard's sent a group of young parishioners to Australia for this landmark event. They were among more than 223,000 registered pilgrims. More than 400,000 attended the final Mass. Lucy Whitehouse has written this account, illustrated with some of her photos, others with permission from the official website.

"When we arrived back in Sydney on Monday 14th July from our week further north staying in the homes of members of the diocese, the World Youth Day events began. From Tuesday to Friday each morning we went to catechesis sessions where we listened to talks by a different bishop/cardinal each time. The talks were mainly focussed on the Holy Spirit as the theme for World Youth Day 2008 was chosen by Pope Benedict as, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be made my witnesses” from the gospel of Luke. Each morning we had a mass after the catechesis.

On Thursday was the papal arrival. We lined the streets of Sydney to catch a glimpse of the pope in the popemobile, and we were particularly fortunate as the he went directly in front our hotel.

On Friday we watched the Stations of the Cross. Many in the group found this an especially moving experience. The Saturday saw the start of the overnight vigil at Randwick racecourse. To get there involved a 5km walk through Sydney, and with the streets packed with pilgrims, this was a long slow walk.

We arrived and were entertained with such acts as a rapping priest from New York and aboriginal dancing.

The Pope arrived and we all took part in a two hour vigil of preparation before unsuccessfully trying to sleep on the cold, uncomfortable racecourse.

The following morning, Sunday, was World Youth Day.

The Pope said mass and announced the next location of World Youth Day; Madrid. This concluded the World Youth Day events, and the week was rounded off by the youth festival, which comprised more musical acts and, as was present throughout the week, an incredible atmosphere of unity and joy.