Cardinal George Pell told a colourful crowd of 150,000 at yesterday's World Youth Day opening Mass in Sydney's Barangaroo district to forgo "fat, relentless egos" andmake a commitment to a life of love and resurrection.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports Cardinal Pell evoked dramatic Old Testament imagery to recall drought-devastated Australia, call people to a life of love and resurrection, and urge them to forgo a life of "fat, relentless egos".
Cardinal Pell expounded on a personal theme of commitment to faith, saying it was not good enough for Catholics to be a "passenger in life" and live in a "no-man's land between the warring parties."
"Life … eventually destroys any possibility of neutrality. Following Christ is not cost free, not always easy, because it requires struggling against what St Paul calls the 'flesh', our fat, relentless egos and old-fashioned selfishness.
"Don't spend your life sitting on the fence, keeping your options open, because only commitments bring fulfilment. Happiness comes from meeting our obligations, doing our duty, especially in small matters and regularly, so we can rise to meet the harder challenges."
He welcomed "anyone, anywhere who regards himself or herself as lost, in deep distress with hope diminished or even exhausted" and urged "very strong Catholics" to "take a step further" and be open to the development of their faith.
As dusk descended over East Darling Harbour, Cardinal Pell directed his words at the "99 sheep" who had found comfort in God, but in the lone sheep that had lost its way.
Clergy from all over the world sat on an 80 metre long stage either side of the canopied altar, clad predominantly in red and white, acclaimed on their arrival like rock stars by their various national groups.
A vast crowd of people, their flags and red and yellow backpacks turned the grey concrete of the Harbour into a heaving sea of kaleidoscopic colour, as they raised their voices in joy, bowed their heads in prayer, the Herald says.Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who acclaimed the "pilgrims of peace … a light of the world , at a time when there is so much darkness."
Meanwhile, World Youth Day organisers are confident almost a quarter of a million Catholic pilgrims will take part in the six day event, the Herald adds in another report.
WYD spokesman Bishop Anthony Fisher said Sydney had been "invaded by joy" this week, with about 100,000 domestic travellers and 40,000 Sydneysiders expected to join 125,000 international pilgrims.
"You look at the streets of Sydney. People are recalling the Olympics ... and it has never been like this," Bishop Fisher told reporters today.
"We've never had this many young people full of faith, of idealism, of enthusiasm for Jesus Christ, his Church and for the future of our world.
"It's a wonderful thing to see happening around us and it was wonderful to be able to report back to the Holy Father, to tell him how the youth of the world are excitedly waiting for his arrival."
Sydney airport is still operating at maximum capacity as thousands of pilgrims continue to arrive.
The Catholic Church is confident that 100,000 Australian travellers will make the trip to Sydney and join with 40,000 local Sydney pilgrims.
"That is a huge turnout for Sydney, on a per capita basis that is two or three times the turnout of young Catholics that they had (at WYD events) in Cologne or Toronto," Bishop Fisher said.
There were huge queues of latecomers still registering to become pilgrims at WYD Sydney venues, he said.
The Church had contributed about $150 million to the event and the NSW and federal governments had put in $86 million.
WYD organisers had managed to put on the event for a fraction of the cost of the $1 billion Sydney Olympics by using large numbers of volunteers, Bishop Fisher said.
"It might be the biggest thing Australia's ever done, but we've had to provide as it were, if not a champagne event, a good sparkling Aussie wine event, but on very much a beer budget."Meanwhile, the President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Philip Wilson today welcomed the official opening of World Youth Day celebrations in Sydney and urged Catholics across Australia to become involved in the events in whatever way they could.
Archbishop Wilson said the atmosphere in Sydney was magnificent, with many thousands of pilgrims moving through the streets and adding colour, life and spirit to the city, ahead of the Opening Mass at Barrangaroo on Sydney Harbour.
"And of course, the Holy Father’s arrival into the outskirts of Sydney on Sunday gave a wonderful new dimension to the reality of World Youth Day here in our own country," he said.
"Coming as a pilgrim himself, Pope Benedict reminds us that the normal state of life for a Catholic is as a pilgrim. We are on a journey to become more like Christ and to be ever greater witnesses to the wonderful truths we believe.
"The Holy Father has already given us a rich theme for reflection, with his focus on the issues relating to ecology and caring for the environment in the name of the Lord.
"This a reality very close to the hearts of young people in the world who have hopes for the future."
Archbishop Wilson said he knew of parishes and Church groups across the nation who were participating in World Youth Day in many wonderful ways, including erecting large screens showing WYD events so that people can feel that they are part of the celebrations wherever they are.
"This is a once in a lifetime event for the Catholic Church in Australia and I urge all Catholics and indeed all Australians everywhere to take part in World Youth Day in their own way," he said
"Many of the key events will be shown on television, so that even those who are confined to home or hospital will be able to tune in and take part.
"I especially ask that you keep World Youth Day and the Holy Father in your prayers during this most momentous week."
SOURCEAn appeal on struggle to the lone lost sheep (Sydney Morning Herald, 16/7/08)
Hope and joy at Earth's end (Sydney Morning Herald, 16/7/08)
WYD organisers confident of record numbers (WA Today,15/7/08)
Pope preaches to pilgrims via text (Sydney Morning Herald, 16/7/08)
ACBC President urges all to get involved in WYD – wherever you are (ACBC, Media Release, 15/7/08)
Pro-Pope graffiti sprayed on war memorial (News.com.au, 15/7/08)