Monday, July 21



"The difference between the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Pope is that when the Archbishop of Canterbury visits Australia, he hails a taxi at the airport." - An Anonymous Anglican

I didn't follow WYD2008 as closely as the one in Cologne, mostly because, aside from liturgical gossip in the blogosphere, there didn't seem to be much coverage--especially in the secular media, where I mostly saw disembodied reports of the pope apologizing for the scandals in Australia, though why the holy octogenarian made that transhemispherical trek was seldom clear.

Of course, it occurs to me today, the day after, to look at Australian newspapers.

Sure enough, The Australian has an entire section on WYD.

The coverage is extensive and really rather positive. As at Cologne, the general public is amazed at how well-behaved such large crowds were. The event, which the Australian government helped to finance and which obviously disrupted the normal flow of routine, neither of which are ever popular, nonetheless was considered "worth it" by 55% of some 15,000 people who participated in their online poll. (No small feat for a remarkably secularized society.) The event's most public feature, a selection of the Stations of the Cross through the streets of Sydney, was greeted in this editorial, which notes that, as "the cross, and the man upon it... rose slowly from the ground," Christ's face "stained with dust, sweat, tears and blood," many in the crowd "fell to their knees and wept." 10,000 people watched the stations of the cross in person, and an estimated audience of 500 million watched on TV. 400,000 pilgrims attended the Pope's final mass at Randwick Racecourse, a larger crowd than any that gathered for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

The ultimately tragic nature of the scandals, sadly, is that the victims can never be made whole, either by apology or payment, but the Church must nonetheless carry on offering both, hoping that the only thing which can ultimately have a healing effect--grace--is communicated along the way. So, it's no surprise that victims' groups are seldom satisfied by an apology--what are they supposed to say? "Oh, well, I guess it's alright, then." But even the inevitably wary acknowledgment by victims of the pope's apology, which could easily be framed by the press as a failure, was reported positively: "Sexual abuse apology welcomed."

My favorite column from the secular press has some thoughts from the participants themselves, saying what we all--and John Paul II in particular--know: that it can be lonely to be Catholic in today's world, especially for high schoolers who very acutely notice what it's like to be different. That's why bringing the Catholic World together for youth has so consistently been transformative:

Ana Maria Amador, 21, from Seville, said: “This is amazing. It will be a really important event for Spain.”

Sydney twins Lana and Alexis Hyland... “It was a full-on week,” Lana said. “But it has strengthened my faith. Meeting so many people from around the world who share your beliefs is pretty amazing and makes you realise you are not alone.”

April Grzeskiewicz, 15, from Michigan, agreed. “I'm the only practising Catholic out of all my school friends back home, which makes me feel kind of weird. But this week was great. And I'm going to tell all my friends about it when I get home.”

Such sentiments would have pleased the Pope. During his sermon, he told the congregation: “The church also needs this renewal. She needs your faith, your idealism and your generosity so that she can always be young in the spirit.”

Can I confess some schadenfreude at the thought of Zapatero's government shelling it out, or making headlines for not shelling it out, for WYD2011?

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