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Sunday, July 20, 2008


VATICAN CITY, 20 JUL 2008 (VIS) - This morning the Holy Father was taken by helicopter from the heliport of Victoria Barracks to Centennial Park, a public park in Sydney founded in the year 1888. From the park he travelled by popemobile to Randwick Racecourse, making a circuit of the area as he greeted and blessed the 350,000 young people from all over the world who were gathered there to attend the closing Mass of 23rd World Youth Day. During the Eucharistic celebration, the Holy Father administered the Sacrament of Confirmation to 24 catechumens.

  Referring in his homily to the theme of this World Youth Day - "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses" - the Holy Father affirmed that "as the source of our new life in Christ, the Holy Spirit is also, in a very real way, the soul of the Church, the love which binds us to the Lord and one another, and the light which opens our eyes to see all around us the wonders of God's grace".

  Benedict XVI indicated that "the power of the Spirit never ceases to fill the Church with life", explaining that "this power, the grace of the Spirit, is not something we can merit or achieve, but only receive as pure gift".

  "God's love can only unleash its power when it is allowed to change us from within. We have to let it break through the hard crust of our indifference, our spiritual weariness, our blind conformity to the spirit of this age. Only then can we let it ignite our imagination and shape our deepest desires. That is why prayer is so important: daily prayer, private prayer in the quiet of our hearts and before the Blessed Sacrament, and liturgical prayer in the heart of the Church".

  The Pope gave thanks to the Lord for the gift of faith, "which has come down to us like a treasure passed on from generation to generation", and especially for "all those heroic missionaries, dedicated priests and religious, Christian parents and grandparents, teachers and catechists who built up the Church in these lands". In this context he mentioned the names of Blessed Mary MacKillop, St. Peter Chanel and Blessed Peter To Rot.

  "Dear young people, let me now ask you a question. What will you leave to the next generation? Are you building your lives on firm foundations, building something that will endure? Are you living your lives in a way that opens up space for the Spirit in the midst of a world that wants to forget God, or even rejects Him in the name of a falsely-conceived freedom? How are you using the gifts you have been given, the 'power' which the Holy Spirit is even now prepared to release within you?"

  "Empowered by the Spirit, and drawing upon faith's rich vision, a new generation of Christians is being called to help build a world in which God's gift of life is welcomed, respected and cherished - not rejected, feared as a threat and destroyed. A new age in which love is not greedy or self-seeking, but pure, faithful and genuinely free, open to others, respectful of their dignity, seeking their good, radiating joy and beauty. A new age in which hope liberates us from the shallowness, apathy and self-absorption which deaden our souls and poison our relationships. Dear young friends, the Lord is asking you to be prophets of this new age, messengers of His love, drawing people to the Father and building a future of hope for all humanity.

  "The world", he added, "needs this renewal! In so many of our societies, side by side with material prosperity, a spiritual desert is spreading: an interior emptiness, an unnamed fear, a quiet sense of despair. How many of our contemporaries have built broken and empty cisterns in a desperate search for meaning, the ultimate meaning that only love can give?"

  "The Church also needs this renewal!" the Holy Father exclaimed. "She needs your faith, your idealism and your generosity, so that she can always be young in the Spirit!"

  Pope Benedict encouraged the young people to open their hearts to the power of the Holy Spirit. "I address this plea in a special way", he said, "to those of you whom the Lord is calling to the priesthood and the consecrated life. Do not be afraid to say 'yes' to Jesus, to find your joy in doing His will, giving yourself completely to the pursuit of holiness, and using all your talents in the service of others!"

  Referring then to the Sacrament of Confirmation which he was about to impart upon a number of young people, he asked those present to reflect upon the significance of receiving the "seal" of the Holy Spirit. "It means", he explained, "being indelibly marked, inalterably changed, a new creation". It means "not being afraid to stand up for Christ, letting the truth of the Gospel permeate the way we see, think and act, as we work for the triumph of the civilisation of love".
PV-AUSTRALIA/WYD MASS/SYDNEY                            VIS 20080720 (870)


VATICAN CITY, 20 JUL 2008 (VIS) - In the Angelus prayer following this morning's Mass, Benedict XVI presented young people with certain reflections upon the Virgin Mary, a young woman who received "the Lord's summons to dedicate her life to Him in a very particular way, a way that would involve the generous gift of herself, her womanhood, her motherhood.

  "Imagine how she must have felt", he added. "She was filled with apprehension, utterly overwhelmed at the prospect that lay before her. The angel understood her anxiety and immediately sought to reassure her. 'Do not be afraid, Mary. The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you'. It was the Spirit Who gave her the strength and courage to respond to the Lord's call, ... Who helped her to understand the great mystery that was to be accomplished through her".

  The Pope went on: "This scene is perhaps the pivotal moment in the history of God's relationship with His people. During the Old Testament, God revealed Himself partially, gradually, as we all do in our personal relationships. ... The Covenant with Israel was like ... a long engagement. Then came the definitive moment, the moment of marriage, the establishment of a new and everlasting covenant. As Mary stood before the Lord, she represented the whole of humanity. In the angel's message, it was as if God made a marriage proposal to the human race. And in our name, Mary said yes.

  "In fairy tales, the story ends there, and all 'live happily ever after'. In real life it is not so simple. For Mary there were many struggles ahead, as she lived out the consequences of the 'yes' that she had given to the Lord. Simeon prophesied that a sword would pierce her heart. When Jesus was twelve years old, she experienced every parent's worst nightmare when, for three days, the child went missing. And after His public ministry, she suffered the agony of witnessing His crucifixion and death. Throughout her trials she remained faithful to her promise, sustained by the Spirit of fortitude. And she was gloriously rewarded".

  "We too must remain faithful to the 'yes' that we have given to the Lord's offer of friendship. We know that He will never abandon us, ... that He will always sustain us through the gifts of the Spirit. Mary accepted the Lord's 'proposal' in our name. So let us turn to her and ask her to guide us as we struggle to remain faithful to the life-giving relationship that God has established with each one of us".

  After the Angelus, the Holy Father pronounced greetings in Italian, French, German, Spanish and Portuguese. He then bid farewell to the young people with these words: "The time has come for me to say good-bye - or rather, to say arrivederci! I thank you all for your participation in World Youth Day 2008, here in Sydney, and I look forward to seeing you again in three years' time. World Youth Day 2011 will take place in Madrid, Spain. Until then, let us continue to pray for one another, and let us joyfully bear witness to Christ before the world".
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VATICAN CITY, 20 JUL 2008 (VIS) - At 6 p.m. today, Benedict XVI met with organisers and benefactors of World Youth Day in a two-stage encounter that took place first in the reception hall and then in the chapter house of Cathedral House in Sydney.

  "I thank you personally", said the Pope, "not only for those sacrifices, but even more for the confidence you have shown in our young people and your trust in God's grace at work in their hearts. Let us pray that the investment which so many of you have made in them will bear fruit in their own lives, for the life of Christ's Church and for the future of our world!"

  "St. Paul, who devoted his entire life to the service of the Gospel, reminds us that 'it is more blessed to give than to receive'. Your generosity and sacrifice have been an essential, yet often hidden, ingredient in the success of this World Youth Day. May the spiritual joy, the satisfaction and the fulfilment that we have all experienced in these days, be an unfailing source of blessings in your own lives. May you never doubt the truth of our Lord's promise that, whenever we give our creativity, energy, resources, and our very selves to Him, we will gain them back abundantly".

  Following the meeting, the Holy Father dined in private and spent the night in Cathedral House.
PV-AUSTRALIA/ORGANISERS/SYDNEY                        VIS 20080720 (250)

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