Boston pilgrims attend World Youth Day celebrations in Australia

Pope Benedict XVI arrives in his popemobile for the celebration of the closing Mass of World Youth Day at Royal Randwick Racecourse in Sydney, Australia, July 20. AP photo/Mark Baker

BOSTON-- Several Boston groups, with a total of more than 450 pilgrims, attended the World Youth Day 2008 celebrations that took place in Sydney, Australia, July 15-20.

The largest group, coordinated through the archdiocesan Office for the New Evangelization of Youth and Young Adults left Boston on the morning of July 11 and after layovers in Atlanta, Los Angeles and Honolulu, arrived a world away in Sydney, Australia on July 13.

Gathered together with approximately 500,000 people from more than 160 different countries to celebrate Mass with Pope Benedict XVI July 20, pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Boston felt the power of the universal Church while renewing their own individual faith at the same time.

“The young people have had many wonderful moments in which they have experienced the power of the sacrament of reconciliation, the Holy Father’s love and solicitude for young people, the universality of the Church, dynamic liturgies and fun moments of bonding with fellow pilgrims,” said Father Matthew Williams, director of the Office for the New Evangelization of Youth and Young Adults. Father Williams accompanied 125 teens, college students, young adults, adults and Cardinal Seán O’Malley to the pilgrimage in Sydney.

Despite the layovers, a 14-hour time difference, and a night spent sleeping under the stars in 50-degree weather, Boston pilgrims returned home from World Youth Day 2008 recharged.

“For the most part, everyone adjusted to the time change very well, motivated by an exciting schedule of World Youth Day events,” said Stephen Colella, also of the Office for the New Evangelization of Youth and Young Adults.

In addition to the WYD events, Boston pilgrims visited the Sydney Wildlife World, the Sydney Opera House, St. Mary’s Cathedral, Bondi Beach, had Mass with Cardinal George Pell of Sydney and 150,000 other pilgrims and received catechesis from Cardinal O’Malley.

Waving American flags, they attended Christian music concerts and festivals and played soccer and conversed with pilgrims from around the world. They were especially touched when they greeted the pope upon his arrival in Australia. “During the Papal Welcoming Ceremony, one young person made eye contact with the Holy Father as he drove by and was deeply touched by that,” said Father Williams.

Approximately 50 people from the Neocatechumenal Way in the Archdiocese of Boston made the pilgrimage to Sydney as well, spending a week in China before flying onto Australia. The group arrived in Hong Kong, where they visited Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, bishop of Hong Kong, at the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception.

They then traveled to Macao, China, and met the bishop there, Bishop Joseph Lai, at his rectory and also visited the elderly in a nursing home run by Spanish order nuns. From there they traveled to mainland China and then on to Shangchuan Island, where St. Francis Xavier preached and died. And then it was on to Australia to join the rest of the pilgrims.

“Having lived in Spain and also the United States, it’s very difficult to find God in the places that I call home,” explained Juan Fernandez, a student at Northeastern University. “Going on this pilgrimage I have had to go very far away to be close to God and so this pilgrimage, for me, has brought me closest to God.”

For nearly 250,000 of the pilgrims in Sydney, the week culminated in an all-night vigil spent sleeping under the stars at the Royal Randwick Racecourse. The pilgrims braved chilly temperatures as they awaited the pope’s arrival for Mass the following day. That evening, with the racecourse in complete darkness, they participated in a candlelit vigil.

“What touched me the most about the trip was the candlelit vigil that we had with the pope on Saturday night and to see how many people from different countries made prayers in their own languages,” said Anna-Natalie Ohman of East Boston.

The closing Mass with the pope was the highlight of the week in Australia for many of the young people. Pope Benedict XVI landed at the racecourse by helicopter and rounded the track greeting cheering pilgrims from his popemobile. Seeing Catholics from around the world brought together because of their faith inspired them and made them feel a closeness to God and each other.

“I really liked celebrating Mass with all the young people from all over the world,” said Veronica Hanley of Framingham. “It’s definitely not something you get to do every day.”

“The Pope’s homily was fantastic. He told us not to be afraid to be Christian and not to be afraid to share our experience with other people,” said Daniel Noé of Stoughton. “The way he spoke was really powerful.”

“My favorite part of this trip has been the reaction of the young people to the pope,” said Denise Dorney of Wakefield, who accompanied the group of young people from the Neocatechumenal Way. “The enthusiasm that they have for this 80-year-old man is incredible.”

WYD, which Pope John Paul II began in 1986 as a way to reach out to young people, is a renewal of the concept of pilgrimage, said Colella. “The renewed concept targets each subjective person and takes them deeper into their own faith and relationship with Christ and his Church,” he said.

“When an individual young person experiences the universal Church, gathered for liturgy around Pope Benedict, they can’t help but be pulled out of their individualism and brought into the faith community.”

For Father Williams, who was moved by the Holy Father’s love for young people, the trip confirmed the need for a New Evangelization, particularly in the way young people are taught about life and love. He said that Pope John Paul II’s “The Theology of the Body” is the “gift that God has given the Church for these times.”

“It is my hope and firm belief that the beautiful authentic witness of our Holy Father, and the many who have served this World Youth Day, have sown many seeds for the Kingdom of God, and with a parish community to support them, these young people will lead the way in building a civilization of love,” said Father Williams.

For more information on the pilgrimage to Australia from Boston pilgrims’ perspectives, visit

Retired Green Bay auxiliary bishop failed to report abuse, withdraws from ministry

Green Bay, Wis., Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Bishop Robert Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Green Bay, has withdrawn from public ministry saying ...

Dolan 'impatient' waiting for apostolic visitation in response to McCarrick

New York City, N.Y., Sep 20, 2018 CNA.- The Archbishop of New York said Thursday that while he has confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the ...

Two more Chilean bishops step down in wake of abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignations of two more Chilean bishops, bringing to seven the number of bishops who have stepped down ...

Celebration of the Priesthood dinner raises over $1.8 million

BOSTON -- A record 1,700 people attended the 10th annual Celebration of the Priesthood dinner to raise funds for the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust ...

Lawrence parish helps community cope with gas explosion aftermath

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Ceremony, Mass kick off St. Augustine Chapel bicentennial

SOUTH BOSTON -- St. Augustine Chapel and Cemetery began its year-long bicentennial celebration on the weekend of Sept. 14-16 with tours, special Masses, ...

Mass. Knights install new officers

The Massachusetts State Council Knights of Columbus recently held its Installation of State Officers at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton with ...

Deal will keep Sancta Maria Nursing Facility open

CAMBRIDGE -- Sancta Maria Nursing Facility announced Sept. 17 that it has negotiated a comprehensive operational contract with Advocate Healthcare Management ...

From Cardinal Seán's blog

As I mentioned in my preface to last week's blog, this week and last, I have been in Rome for meetings related to the work of the Pontifical Commission ...

N.Y. Archdiocese names judge as independent reviewer on abuse protocols

NEW YORK (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has named a former federal judge to study archdiocesan policies and procedures with respect to sexual ...

U.S. reports poverty declines, but agencies finding needs remain great

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The good news from the U.S. Census Bureau Sept. 12 was that the poverty rate dropped for the third straight year in 2017 and median ...

Class-action lawsuit filed against eight Pennsylvania dioceses

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- A class-action lawsuit was filed Sept. 17 against eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania demanding the dioceses provide proof that ...

Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...

Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, code of conduct

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pledging to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 ...

Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

Media reporting Vatican-China agreement could be signed in late September

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The long-awaited Sino-Vatican agreement on the nomination of bishops is expected to be signed in September, reported several media ...

Update: Irish singer Bono calls pope 'extraordinary man for extraordinary times'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bono, the lead singer of the Irish band U2, said he told Pope Francis that in Ireland "it looks as though the abusers are being ...

Cardinal Marx says mistakes were made, calls for change in German church

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops' conference, admitted that mistakes were made in the German church's handling of sex abuse of minors ...

Church crisis response: Healing Masses, listening sessions, fasting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, Catholics are praying for victims, talking about their frustration and anger, ...

Pope names Minnesota priest as auxiliary bishop of Hartford

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Father Juan M. Betancourt, a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as auxiliary bishop ...

Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Advocates decry historically low cap for refugee entry in 2019

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Advocates for refugee admissions into the United States decried what one statement called a historically low cap of 30,000 for fiscal ...

Stanford University to remove saint's name from some properties

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- California's Stanford University will strip the name of 18th-century Franciscan friar, St. Junipero Serra, from some of its properties ...

Catholic Charities distributes disaster relief to areas hit by Florence

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) -- The Carolinas were hard hit with record rainfall and flooding rivers from tropical storm Florence since it made landfall Sept. ...

Archbishop Lori assures diocese he's with them in journey toward healing

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- In his celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling Sept. 15, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said ...

Bishop takes a (sky) dive to get pilgrims to Lourdes

HOVE, England (CNS) -- "The Moth has landed," tweeted the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. The tweet Sept. 14 and a similar post on the diocesan Facebook ...

Words, promises are not enough to prevent abuse, archbishop says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Inviting presidents of the world's bishops' conference to the Vatican to discuss abuse prevention reflects an understanding that ...

Pope praises Capuchin order's charism of authenticity, simplicity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Capuchins are called to be men of peace, reconciliation and prayer and to be close to all people, Pope Francis told members of the ...

Path to healing starts with seeking forgiveness, Cardinal Wuerl says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A "Season of Healing" for sexual abuse survivors began in the Archdiocese of Washington with a Sept. 14 Mass at the Cathedral of St. ...

Archbishop McCarrick's unofficial role in Vatican-China relations

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Following reports that the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China could be about to sign an agreement ...

Archbishop Chaput: When we forget faith, we forget our humanity

Spokane, Wash., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- When man tries to cling to reason and separate himself from faith, he forgets who he is and loses his source of hope, ...

Pope Francis warns priests against living a double life

Palermo, Italy, Sep 15, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- During a day trip to Sicily Saturday, Pope Francis told priests and religious to fight their vices and strive ...

What is the pontifical secret?

Vatican City, Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Following the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò about the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, ...

Catholic workers say U.S. aid cuts to Palestinians could be disastrous

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- The U.S. budgetary cuts to humanitarian aid institutions helping Palestinians could lead to long-term disastrous consequences, said ...