Pope to land in Hawkesbury region

Pope Benedict will land at the Richmond airforce base on his arrival in Australia for World Youth Day while his security chief has given the thumbs up to preparations for the papal visit.

St Monica's Richmond parish priest Fr Walter Fogarty said the news was very exciting for Hawkesbury's Catholic residents, the Hawkesbury Gazette reports.

"There were rumours floating around for a while that His Holiness would be flying into Richmond, but until it was officially announced we weren't sure,” he said.

"We're all very excited now it's official."

Fr Fogarty said the Pope's itinerary for the first few days of his stay hadn't been disclosed to the public, so he couldn't confirm or deny rumours that His Holiness would be spending his first night somewhere in the Hawkesbury region.

"I suspect the location will not be made public given it will be a time for quiet reflection for the Pope before the beginning of WYD," he said.

News.com.au adds that a detailed papal itinerary released by the Vatican shows the pontiff will conduct prayers at the chapel in North Sydney before meeting Prime Minister Kevin Rudd later on the morning of July 17.

Details of the Pope's itinerary have been released as his Italian personal bodyguard and head of Vatican security visits Sydney this week to finalise security arrangements.

Vatican security chief Dr Domenico Giani, whose formal title is General Inspector of the Vatican Gendarmeria, said he was working with New South Wales police and other authorities as he conducted his final inspections and approvals ahead of the Pope's visit.

"I have particularly appreciated the dedication, the help and professionalism of the women and men who serve the population of Australia each day and who, on this particular occasion, extend their services to the Holy Father," Dr Giani said.

He said he was pleased with the security arrangements in place for the Catholic Church's World Youth Day, which is expected to attract 500,000 people to a Sunday Mass with the Pope on his first visit to Australia.

Dr Giani organised security during the Pope's tour of the US in April, his visits to Austria and Brazil in 2007 and his visits to Turkey, Germany, Spain and Poland in 2006.

World Youth Day chief operating officer Danny Casey said the public would be able to see the Pope up close.

"I think you'll find there'll be many opportunities for young people to get close to the Holy Father throughout the week," Mr Casey said.

World Youth Day organisers also announced at least 36 extra flights scheduled for next month, including four additional Qantas flights from Los Angeles and Europe and a charter flight.

"Our information is that almost every flight into Sydney is fully booked in the lead up to the event and 36 more flights have had to be added so far," Mr Casey said.

As of this week, 39,000 special visas have been granted for pilgrims and 13,000 are pending. The church says it is on track for 125,000 international visitors. Many would collect their visas as they left their country of origin.

Horses move from Randwick

The Sydney Morning Herald reports more than 600 thoroughbred horses will be moved out of Sydney's Randwick Racecourse over the next 10 days, ahead of the papal visit and World Youth Day.

Work to expand facilities at alternative racecourses across the city has been completed, it was announced today, at a cost of $10 million, to be shared by the State and Federal governments.

"The work completed at Warwick Farm and Rosehill Gardens will mean horses are moving to new and improved facilities, which are safer and have increased capacity," NSW Government World Youth Day spokeswoman Kristina Keneally said in a statement.

"Once the Randwick horses arrive there will be up to 1,000 horses training at the venue for the 10 week relocation period," Ms Keneally said.

Cubans coming

Meanwhile, Aid to the Church in Need is raising funds to bring young Cubans to WYD.

Havana Auxiliary Bishop Juan de Dios Hernandez Ruiz SJ and secretary general of the Cuban bishops' conference hope to be able to send at least a small delegation of young Cubans to World Youth Day in Sydney.

Four young people, accompanied by a priest and a bishop, would love to undertake this trip but funding is still lacking for two of these pilgrims.

An American priest Fr Paul Strittmatter has raised over $50,000 for a large group of young people from Missouri.

The Missouri Valley Times News says that Fr Strittmatter has funded a large part of this trip on his own.

"I started saving my own money and getting donations for this event as soon as it was announced three years ago," he said.

"Through the generosity of others and what I had myself, I was able to raise the majority of funds necessary. Or at least I thought that was true."

Unfortunately rising fuel costs and increased air fares have caused some rather serious problems.

Fr Strittmatter said "I started raising funds in August, 2005. To date I raised over $50,000. However, the price of airline tickets has increased by over 50 percent from when the trip was first budgeted. I still wanted this trip to be affordable for the kids who wanted to attend. But I suddenly found myself $20,000 short of my goal."


Pope to land at RAAF Base (Hawkesbury Gazette, 5/6/08)

Pope's Australian itinerary released (News.com.au, 5/6/08)

Pope's bodyguard checks us out (Sydney Morning Herald, 6/6/08)

Fr. Strittmatter's dream for youth trip needs help-costs have skyrocketed; Aussie Auction June 20 to raise funds (Missouri Valley Times News, 5/6/08)

Cuba: WYD - A spark of hope for the Forgotten Church (Aid to the Church in Need, 5/6/08)


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