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BY TIM DRAKEREGISTER SENIOR WRITER
Australia — Not since World Youth Day was held in the Philippines 19 years ago,
has the event had such a Pacific face.
the more than 225,000 youth gathered in Sydney, many are coming from countries
that have never before been represented at World Youth Day.
proud of efforts by WYD to get Third World pilgrims to WYD,” said Sydney
Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Fisher, coordinator of the event. “For many this is
their once-ever chance to get to WYD.”
Fisher provided some figures to prove his point. At World Youth Day in Cologne,
there were only 100 New Zealanders present, 10 from Papua New Guinea, and fewer
than 100 from other Pacific islands.
World Youth Day in Sydney, there were more than 4,500 New Zealanders, 2,000
from Papua New Guinea, and 1,000 each from islands such as Tonga, Samoa and
Fiji. In addition, World Youth Day Sydney was the first time that pilgrims from
East Timor have ever been able to be present at the event.
New Guinea pilgrim Felicitas Dau, 27, came with a group of 51 from the West New
Britain area of Papua New Guinea.
really amazing for us to be here,” she said. “We’re really enjoying it —
meeting all the people and different races. It’s wonderful to become one in
said she was touched by what Pope Benedict XVI had to say on his arrival.
was asking us to go out and preach the Word of God,” Dau said. “It’s up to us,
the young people, to be a new generation for the Catholic Church and help the
Church to grow.”
Struggles in the Asian Church
Youth Day offers young Catholics from Southeast Asia the opportunity to gather
together in a place where they have complete religious freedom. That right is
not provided in many Pacific nations. Those from Myanmar (Burma), for example,
are not free to build new churches or have large religious gatherings without
Catholic Church wants to live its own life and be able to express its faith and
assist those in need — feeding, clothing and educating the people in Burma,”
said Bishop Julian Porteous, auxiliary bishop of Sydney. “The Church does not
desire to be a political force, but to help the people in Burma.”
wanted to see the Pope,” said Tujai Maru, a 26-year-old pilgrim from northern
Myanmar who was part of a pilgrimage group of 33, including six priests and
three nuns, from that country. “We also wanted to see what the other youth of
the world are doing and be here with them.”
priest Father Anthony Laureta highlighted some additional challenges facing
Pacific Catholics. “We have many influences coming from the outside —
secularism and globalization. Seeing what has happened in Australia helps us to
know how to minister to our young people.”
challenge facing the Church in the Philippines is Muslim extremism, added
Father Antonio Perez.
“It’s getting quite extreme in the
southern Philippines,” said Father Perez. “The Church is trying to promote
Catholics were present in force at World Youth Day ’08.
been unable to attend since 1995,” said Father Laureta, from the city of Cavite
in the Philippine Diocese of Imus. “No matter how much we wanted to attend, it
was too expensive for us.” He attended World Youth Day 2008 with 32 pilgrims, a
handful of priests, two nuns, and their bishop, Luis Antonio Tagle.
Laureta said that there were only two Filipino delegates sent to WYD in
addition to the closeness, another factor that drew the Filipinos to Australia
was the fact that it was far easier for them to obtain visas.
wonderful to experience how Catholics can be united and young people can see
another perspective,” said Father Laureta. “They can see how we can be the
Church and be one, despite all our differences.”
added that attending WYD also helped him understand how to deal with the issues
facing young people in an increasingly secularized culture.
Perez estimated that of all Asian Catholics, those from the Philippines
represent approximately 60% of the total, with 75-80 million. In fact, the
Diocese of Imus is sometimes referred to as the mini-Vatican because there are
more than 100 religious communities within it.
we are poor, but spiritually we are quite rich,” said Father Perez. “We are not
rich in natural resources, but Filipinos cling to their faith despite difficult
addition to Pacific islanders, World Youth Day Sydney also provided a unique
opportunity for indigenous Australians and Torres Strait Islanders to attend
and participate in the event being held on their lands. Twenty-two percent of
indigenous Australians and Torres Strait Islanders are Catholic.
17-person Indigenous Communities Advisory Committee was established in 2006 to
guide the native elements of World Youth Day and to encourage aborigines to
come to the event.
peoples participated in nearly every event in Sydney. At the Seventh Station of
the Cross, for example, an aborigine played the role of Simon the Cyrene.
Aboriginal artwork and music was present at nearly every major event,
decorating the sanctuary at the closing Mass, and even all of the priests’
“People will find the aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islanders more present at this event than ever before,” said
Bishop Fisher. “That reflects a commitment by the Church standing up for
aboriginal rights when others did not, including Australia’s earliest bishops.”
addition to those from the Pacific, also present were the children of Asian
Vinod George, a priest with the Syro-Malabar Catholic rite in the Diocese of
Chicago, accompanied a group of 20 children of Indian immigrants.
were hopeful that the presence of Pacific Catholics could perhaps have a
transformative effect on those who may not be Catholic.
Nadarajan, a Hindu convert to the Catholic faith, spoke of the power of Christ
tradition of the sacraments led me to the faith,” said Nadarajan. “Through WYD,
youth can say, ‘I’m not a minority.’”
Tim Drake filed this story from