Pope thanks Australia

Pope Benedict has thanked Australia for its welcome during World Youth Day.

"I hasten to express to you once more my deep gratitude for the affectionate reception which I received from you and all your fellow citizens," the Pope has written in a message received by Governor-General Michael Jeffery, The Australian reports.

"I was honoured by the official welcoming ceremony at Government House and most appreciative of the personal welcome which you extended to me at your (Sydney) residence, Admiralty House,'' Pope Benedict said.

"Please also accept my heartfelt thanks for the many courtesies afforded me throughout my visit.

"I am grateful to the various civil and military authorities of Australia, as well as the residents and business people of Sydney whose spirit of collaboration helped to ensure the warm welcome of the pilgrims and the smooth progress of my visit,'' he said.

"May the Lord bless all of you abundantly for your kindness and hospitality!''

Pilgrims from more than 170 nations came to Sydney for the week long World Youth Day festival, whose events were watched live by an estimated international TV audience of 500 million.

Asylum seekers

Meanwhile, Cardinal George Pell, has told SBS it's "not entirely unexpected" that World Youth Day pilgrims could seek asylum in the country once their three month visa expires.

But he said that pilgrims should not break the law.

"The agreement was, if they came here for WYD there would be special provisions for them, that if they stayed beyond World Youth Day the normal laws of the land would apply," he says.

Cardinal Pell says the Catholic Church would take each submission for asylum on a case by case basis.

An immigration department official said it was hard to predict at this stage whether there would be more applications.

"Obviously we're aware that there are pilgrims out there who have been given three month visas and so it might well be at the end of those three months we see a spike in applications for protection," the official said.

In New Zealand, one month entry visas have now expired for a group of Indian pilgrims who disappeared in New Zealand while on a stopover en route to World Youth Day in Sydney, SBS reported.

A Department of Labour spokesman said on Monday that of the 40 pilgrims who arrived last month, four had returned home and 36 remained in the country, all except one on an expired visa.

Authorities knew the whereabouts of 20, including one man who approached officials last week saying he also wanted to return home.

The spokesman said 11 had come forward to seek permission to stay, eight applying for student permits and three for visitor permits.

"We are looking for the other 16," he said.


Pope thanks Australia for WYD welcome (The Australian, 14/8/08)

WYD asylum seekers 'to rise' (SBS, 13/8/08)

Indian pilgrims in NZ get grace period (SBS, 13/8/08) 


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