Monday, July 21, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI warms the hearts of 200,000 pilgrims

POPE Benedict XVI warmed the hearts of over 200,000 pilgrims camping under the stars at a chilly Randwick racecourse tonight.

Bendict XVI thanked God for the "great gift" of their faith.

Attending an evening vigil on the eve of his papal mass for an expected 500,000 people, Benedict XVI urged young people to hear the "concordant voice of humanity" through the dissonance and division of their world.

"From the forlorn child in a Darfur camp, or a troubled teenager, or an anxious parent in any suburb, or perhaps even now from the depth of your own heart, there emerges the same human cry for recognition, for belonging, for unity," he said.

"Who satisfies that essential human yearning to be one, to be immersed in communion, to be built up, to be led to truth?

"The holy spirit," he told pilgrims who were given candles, water, snacks and waterproof ponchos as they swarmed around a huge stage whose massive TVs gave the occasion a rock concert atmosphere.

"Tonight, gathered under the beauty of the night sky, our hearts and minds are filled with gratitude to God for the great gift of our Trinitarian faith," he said.

The 81-year-old pontiff ended his address with a comment of special significance for the Sisters of St Joseph praying for Blessed Mary MacKillop to become Australia's first saint.

"I echo to you the words spoken by Blessed Mary MacKillop when she was just 26 years old," he said.

"'Believe in the whisperings of God to your heart.'"

The pilgrims were in high spirits but no doubt weary after the vast bulk of them - an estimated 180,000 - streamed across the Sydney Harbour Bridge in a day-long procession to the site of tomorrow's World Youth Day (WYD) mass.

"It's touching, so many people of the same age praying together, when so many other people our age are into drugs, smoking or drinking," said Shane Govender, 16, from South Africa.

"With all these people here, we won't even notice how cold it gets," said Neil Philander, 18, also from South Africa.

"We're not here to sleep, we're here to worship. We won't be sleeping," said Loma Falekaono, 36, from Hawaii.

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