“Amazing, staggering, phenomenal, overwhelming.” These were some of the words pilgrims used to describe their experience of World Youth Day in Sydney in 2008, Archbishop Fisher OP said, as he welcomed those gathered for the WYD08 10th Anniversary Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral on 20 July.
More than 1000 people filled the cathedral to celebrate the event that ignited the faith of young Australian Catholics.
Many had been pilgrims, group leaders and volunteers at the momentous event that took over the streets of Sydney a decade ago.
WYD08 “changed youth ministry and the youth scene in the Catholic Church in Australia forever,” Archbishop Fisher said.
“Ten years ago today Pope Benedict XVI celebrated the biggest Mass in the history of our nation.”
At that final Mass, the Archbishop said, were over 4,000 con-celebrating priests and bishops and over 400,000 of the faithful. It was the “culmination of an extraordinary week-long festival of faith”.
He said Pope Emeritus Benedict has often referred to his experience of WYD in Sydney.
The retired Pope sent a special message for the ten year anniversary celebrations which was read out during the Mass.
“Recalling the wonderful experience of WYD in Sydney in 2008, I gladly invoke God’s blessing upon you, your Archdiocese and all those gathered here to celebrate this ten year anniversary,” Pope Benedict wrote.
Following the Mass, celebrations ensued in the Cathedral Hall, where entertainment was provided by several ethnic communities including, Croatian, Sudenese, Vietnamese and Tongan Catholic youth groups.
Capuchin Friar, Fr John Nguyen, launched Archbishop Fisher’s new book, My Dear Young Friend, a collection of letters to young people on living the faith in the world today.
“The future of the Church and the world has been put into your hands as a sacred trust by God,” the Archbishop said.
“My dear friends I offer you this little book of 40 letters … above all, on your relationship with the God who risked everything to seek you out and love you.”
Several WYD08 pilgrims gave their testimonies, including Catholic Weekly photographer Giovanni Portelli, who spoke of how the experience first propelled him to take up photography as a form of evangelisation.
“I was blown away by the sight of so many joyful Catholics … I was burning to share my Catholic faith so that people without faith could see what I saw,” he said.
“World Youth Day 2008 was the spark that activated me. What will be the spark that will set your heart aflame?”