"Receive the power to be a light unto the world!" And indeed it was a powerful moment when the Holy Spirit enkindled thousands of young hearts, commissioning them to be"Lamps of the future". 15th – 20th July 2008 at Sydney, Australia marked one of the biggest movements in the history of the Catholic church, the Twenty-Third World Youth Day’ 2008. The Great South land with its aboriginal ancestry, crocodile Dundee’s and arid desert outback opened its arms to welcome half a million young pilgrims from 170 nations over the world. From the snow glaciers of Alaska to the tropical savannas of Brazil, people of every race, tribe, creed and colour held hands as one big family to worship and celebrate God.
World Youth Day (WYD) was established in 1986 by Pope John Paul II and The Pontifical Council for the Laity (PCL) in Vatican. It was to be an annual event to reach out to the youth of the world. The pope saw it as a way to talk to the next generation of Catholics and rejuvenate the Church. The WYD provides a sacred ground to test one’s faith, rediscover it if lost, strengthen it if weakened and savour it through fellowship. As they say today’s youth will be tomorrow’s disciples.
In the years that followed WYD truly became a pilgrimage of faith, where young people from diverse backgrounds met and experienced God’s love.
The first World Youth Day was held in Rome in 1986. Every year since, it has been celebrated at a Diocesan level in Rome and every two to three years it is taken to an international host city. Following John Paul’s lead, Pope Benedict XVI has continued this tradition starting with Cologne, Germany in 2005 soon after he was elected Pope.
Following are the facts and figures of the past WYD’s in history
"We ourselves have known and put our faith in God’s love towards ourselves"
Santiago de Compostela
"I am the Way, the Truth and the Life"
"You have received a spirit of sonship"
"I came that they might have life, and have it to the full"
"As the Father sent me, so am I sending you"
"Teacher, where are you staying? Come and see"
"The Word became flesh and dwelt among us"
"You are the salt of the earth … you are the light of the world" (Mt 5: 13,14)
"We have come to worship Him" (Mt 2,2)
"You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses" (Acts 1, 8)
WYD 08 Themes and Logo
Every WYD revolves around a theme chosen by the Pope from the Bible. It is usually a verse taken from one of the Bible gospels – a verse to which young people would be able to relate to, reason with and apply to their way of living, behaving and thinking.
This year the theme was taken from the Book of the Acts of the Apostles inspiring a deep and meaningful message – ‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses.’ – Acts 1:8
Based on the theme, a logo was designed to create uniformity and integrity among the pilgrims. The logo design and colours were used on a huge array of pilgrim merchandise consisting of Backpacks, T-shirts, Caps, Pens, Watches, Gold coins, Rosaries, Show pieces, etc
This logo distils the essence of the theme and highlights the promise made by Jesus to set fire upon the Earth by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Central to the logo is the Cross raised in victory, representing Christ and His passion, poured out into the world from the Cross. The whiteness of the Cross indicates that Jesus is the light of the world.
The flames represent the Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in tongues of fire. They evoke the Sacrament of Confirmation and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The colours of red, orange and yellow flowing throughout symbolise the Trinity and Unity of God.
The blue of the logo represents the oceans that surround Australia, the waters of Baptism, the sea of humanity and Mary, full of grace.
The Opera House is the symbol of Sydney, the host city for WYD08.
Another tradition of each WYD is the selection of 10 patrons by the organisers and their approval by the Vatican. When deciding who the patrons should be, the focus is usually on historical names that would inspire young people. Not only saints, but those who are waiting to become saints – blesseds – and those who have had a particular influence on the host country’s history. Pilgrims are asked to learn their stories, and understand that these ordinary people could do extraordinary things through the Spirit of Christ. For the year 2008, 10 wonderful human beings were chosen to represent and reflect history of the Australia, Oceania and the World.
a) Home Is Where It Begins
Amidst the thronging crowds, flags flying high and countries shouting out their national slogans, the State of Kuwait made its loud appearance in all its red, green and white splendour. For a nation so small on the Middle Eastern Map and a handful of just forty pilgrims, the vibrant enthusiasm and grace of its Catholic youth proudly found its way to the local newspapers and television in Australia. However, it was at the heart of the Catholic Church in Kuwait where their pilgrimage truly began months before the actual WYD. Forty young people from the three parishes in Kuwait city, Salmiya and Ahmadi came together as the Youth Animators Kuwait to represent the Vicariate of Kuwait at Sydney.
Under the guidance of two priests, Fr. Lionel Braganza sdb and Fr. Ruben Barrameda, the animators staged performances for their beloved parishioners in each parish. The presentation entitled"Worship" showcased their talents of music and drama yet on a spiritual platform of praise and worship. This sneak peek proved to be a window through which parishioners could experience and relate to this beautiful movement of the youth. Soon this window opened doors through which support in the form of funds, media coverage, clothes and most importantly prayers came pouring in to strengthen and encourage these youngsters.
On 4th July, 2008, the Bishop of Kuwait, His Lordship Camillo Ballin commissioned the animators through a Eucharistic Mass at the Holy Family cathedral equipping them with grace, courage and love.
On 8th July 2008, the Youth Animators of Kuwait finally embarked on their pilgrimage of faith to the land Down under.
b) Days In The Diocese – Melbourne
In the previous week leading up to WYD, the Kuwait pilgrims participated in the Days in the Diocese programme at Melbourne, which is Australia’s largest Archdiocese. From 10th-13th July’ 2008, Melbourne’s parishioners billeted these forty pilgrims into their own homes adorning them with the comforts and love of a real family. So despite the chilly winter weather, the youth were warmed with this genuine Aussie hospitality and affection. This first experience paved the way for even more delightful encounters.
11th July 2008 – The Archbishop of Melbourne along with all the bishops of the world presided over a commissioning mass. A crucifix shaped altar rimmed with twinkling blue lights was erected at the centre of Telstra dome, a massive indoor football stadium in the city. The night glittered with laser beam shows, tribal dances and orchestral performances.
Later that evening the main city area bustled with musical and drama festivals where Catholic and Christian singers, dancers, poets and writers attracted the crowds to awaken a new dimension of faith.
On 13th July, the forty pilgrims took an overnight bus travelling a distance of 3000 Km over 15 hours from Melbourne to Sydney, the city splayed with joy, blessings and youth.
SYDNEY- THE HEARTLAND
A) Journey Of WYD Cross & Icon
The WYD Cross and Icon, another symbolic tradition, has ignited unity since its inaugural journey in 1984. Pope John Paul II entrusted the youth of the world with this cross as an instrument of hope for the Jubilee Year of 2000. Since then it has become the focal point of WYD over the past 20 years. It has been touched and carried by millions of pilgrims and members of the public from around the world. The Cross and Icon have assisted young people to come to terms with racial injustices, religious barriers, civil unrest and acts of terrorism.
It travelled through the Americas visiting Ground Zero in New York and with it brought a message of peace. It touched the hearts of those from Rwanda where genocide brought a humanitarian crisis and into the Solomon Islands after the country was decimated by an earthquake and tsunami. The icon is an image of Mother Mary and the child Jesus. Unlike most mother and child images, this one has the baby Jesus looking on to His mother delivering a message to all of us to follow in Mary’s undoubting faith and loyalty to God.
B) Papal Arrival
17th July marked the day of the arrival of the highest authority of the Catholic Church, His Holiness Pope Benedict the XVI. As he arrived at Sydney Harbour on his Papal-vessel, up to 500,000 people including local and international pilgrims were shouting out slogans and cheers for their spiritual leader. The most popular yell was"BEEEENNEEDICTO"! followed by claps and foot stomps. On board the Sydney 2000, Pope Benedict was accompanied by 530 other people, including Australian Cardinals and Bishops, the Papal Entourage, indigenous representatives and international pilgrims.
Upon reaching shore, He then sat in His Popemobile and drove all through the streets waving His hands to the youth. The pilgrims from Kuwait were lucky to have an up close and personal view of the Holy Father where He was only 5 steps away from them.
C) Night Under The Stars
On 19th July our pilgrims along with tens of thousands of other pilgrims made their way across the Sydney Harbour Bridge as part of the Pilgrimage Walk from North Sydney to the Southern Cross Precinct (Randwick Racecourse) for the Evening Vigil with the Holy Father. As the pilgrims walked over 6 hours with bag and baggage they prayed the rosary, sang hymns and stopped to encourage others along the way. This walk was intended to make pilgrims feel the weight of their crosses just the way Jesus did during His way to crucifixion.
At the end of the journey, the youngsters were still filled with energy and enthusiasm as they danced to the beats of Gospel rockers and rappers from across the land.
The Pope arrived in His Popemoblie to the blessed altar which was located at the centre of the Racecourse. He began the evening Vigil with a Lighting of the Candles ceremony. The event was focused on the lives of the 10 WYD08 patrons. The Pope led Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction. Pilgrims then tucked themselves into sleeping bags with the Randwick racecourse mud turf for a floor and the Australian night sky for a roof. With a temperature of 8 degrees and chilly winds blowing, over 200,000 pilgrims slept together in the comfort and warmth of the Lord’s arms.
On 20th July on Sunday, pilgrims awoke to serene morning prayers and hymns. Local Australian residents also arrived at the Racecourse that morning and together with the youth of the world celebrated the High mass of World Youth Day’ 2008 which in turn became the largest Catholic Mass ever held in the country.
His Holiness thanked Sydney for hosting the week-long festivities before announcing Madrid as the next host city for World Youth Day in 2011.
Apostles Of God
As our pilgrims from Kuwait made their way out of Sydney, they hugged and thanked the many volunteers, policemen, local residents, priests, nuns and fellow pilgrims with tears in their eyes. It was a journey of both huge celebrations and times of quiet reflection. People would stop at churches for a quick hello to Jesus or stop by a confession stand to free themselves of the burden of sin.
Pilgrims would be seen sporting tee-shirts which said"I am in love with JC". Indeed what a privilege to know and experience such a love like no other- pure, loyal and unconditional.
WYD is not just a day, a week or an unforgettable experience. It is like learning to breathe fresh air again. It is about examining your life and rearranging your priorities. It reconnects you to God. It reaffirms your duty to carry on His good works as Child and Apostle
For me this experience was "A DISCOVERY OF LOVE."
Author: Dr. Andrea L. Pinto- Kuwait