AUSTRALIA READY TO WELCOME WYD PILGRIMS
In the lead up to the 2008 World Youth Day (WYD 08) celebration in Sydney this July, the Australian Embassy in Manila in cooperation with the Episcopal Commission on Youth of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines organised an Information Day for Philippine delegate leaders at the Embassy on 11 April. Geoff Morris, WYD08 Director for Pilgrim Services and Support, visited Manila to provide delegates with information on WYD08 activities and proceedings. The seminar also provided useful information on visas and registration guidelines, and customs requirements for a safe and well-informed pilgrimage to Australia.
The arrival of tens of thousands of young people from across the globe has sparked growing interest among young Australians. WYD08 has drawn registrations from more than 170 countries so far including an estimated 5,000 pilgrims from the Philippines.
The visit of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI to Australia for the World Youth Day celebrations in July will be the culmination of three years of intense preparations and close cooperation between the Catholic Church in Australia, Australian Federal, State and local Governments, business and local communities.
The Holy Father acknowledged the contribution of the Australian Government and community to preparations for World Youth Day during the recent Palm Sunday celebration in St Peter’s Square, saying “I wish to acknowledge the spirit of co-operation shown by the Federal and New South Wales governments, as well as the residents and business people of Sydney”.
The Australian Government hopes that pilgrims will take the opportunity to learn about Australia’s modern, progressive and diverse society. Australia is the natural home for an event which brings people together from different backgrounds and unites them in a common cause.
Australia’s Ambassador designate to the Philippines, Rod Smith, noted that Australia is a society which has enshrined in law the right for people of different backgrounds to be free to practise their faith. “Nearly two-thirds of Australians identify themselves as Christians, although all other major religious faiths are also practised, reflecting Australia’s culturally diverse society”, Mr Smith said.
The Australian Government is a leader in promoting interfaith dialogue regionally and internationally. Australia, together with the Philippines, Indonesia, and New Zealand, has co-sponsored an interfaith dialogue process in the Asia Pacific Region, involving 15 countries. Most recently under this process, Cambodia hosted a Dialogue on Interfaith Cooperation for Peace and Harmony from 3-6 April.