Pope Benedict will rest three days at an Opus Dei run resort at Kenthurst north of Sydney after his arrival at Richmond airforce base for World Youth Day.
Cardinal George Pell yesterday confirmed that Pope Benedict XVI would be taken straight to the Kenthurst Study Centre, on Sydney's north-western outskirts, after flying into Richmond RAAF Air Base next Sunday.
The retreat caters for as many as 30 guests and features tennis, volleyball and basketball courts and a 25m swimming pool. It also has plenty of room to land the helicopter, which the Pope will use to beat Sydney's traffic later in the week.
While the Pontiff is unlikely to be shooting hoops, he will be able to indulge his love of playing piano and catch glimpses of the Blue Mountains from the many bush trails on the property before beginning his pastoral duties at World Youth Day.
"The venue was chosen as it is a semi-rural location run by the Catholic Church which is in close proximity to Sydney,'' Cardinal Pell said.
"At his time at the Kenthurst Study Centre, he will be resting from his long flight, which is the furthest he has travelled.
"He will be partaking in his daily prayers, and doing some of the things he enjoys, such as playing the piano.''
The centre itself resembles a large country home but features austere decor suited to an Opus Dei residence. The rooms are simple, furnished with just a single bed, desk, sofa and a small heater.
The centre's hospitality manager, Maryanne Woodhead, said World Youth Day organisers contacted Opus Dei and asked if the Kenthurst facility could also accommodate visiting bishops and cardinals.
"We don't know how many there will be but we are on stand-by to cater for a number of visiting dignitaries,'' she said.
"The police are here securing (the compound). There may be dignitaries from politically unstable countries who require additional protection.''
After his three days of private retreat, the Pope will move to Cathedral House in the city to stay with Cardinal Pell for the rest of the week.
POPE Benedict XVI said today he was already thinking ahead to his departure for Australia next weekend.
"My thoughts are already in Australia'' he said at his summer residence in Castelgandolfo near Rome during his traditional Sunday Angelus prayer.WYD a waste: Priest
Meanwhile, The Sydney Morning Herald reports a Sydney priest has said the money being spent on World Youth Day is an embarrassment and a scandal.
Fr Peter Confeggi, a parish priest at Mount Druitt, said there was also a "large amount of dissatisfaction" with the spirituality that will be taught during the event, with many fearing it would be a right wing brand of Catholicism.
Others within the Church who did not want to be named told The Sun-Herald of similar concerns about the six day event, which will cost the Church an estimated $150 million and NSW taxpayers at least $86 million.
"There is a great dissatisfaction with the Restorationist spirituality, which is also devoid of any commitment to social justice," Fr Confeggi said.
Fr Confeggi said his parish was one of the most disadvantaged in Sydney. He said the Church and state funds could be directed elsewhere, including to the 120,000 people sleeping homeless in Australia or education of the disadvantaged.
"To keep the Church doors open here in Mount Druitt we scratch week after week after week," he said.
"The bottom line is this is a gross embarrassment to the Church that I serve."
Fr Confeggi said it was an "utter scandal" that a chalice, Communion plate and vessel to hold Communion hosts - adorned by Argyle diamonds and being made for a rumoured six figure sum - would be given to the Pope.
Yesterday Bishop Kevin Manning, the Bishop of Parramatta and member of the local organising committee for the event, defended it, saying it was "an investment in the future of the Church and society."
"World Youth Day is about renewing the faith and ideals of young people so that they, too, will work for social justice and charity and will carry forward the works of the Church in these areas," he said. "The Catholic Church is the largest non-government provider of education, health care and welfare services for the disadvantaged in Australia and the world and we want to ensure that such works continue and are strengthened in the future."
Pope's Sydney digs unveiled (Daiy Telegraph, 7/7/08)
Pope looking forward to trip (The Australian, 8/7/08)
Catholic day a 'scandal' (Sydney Morning Herald, 6/7/08)