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 CNS Story:

WYD-SYDNEY Aug-1-2006 (730 words) With photos. xxxn

Young people called to prepare for World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney

By Nancy Frazier O'Brien
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The first international World Youth Day to be held in Australia will provide an opportunity for young people to learn about and strengthen their faith and to spread that faith to those "down under" who do not put a high priority on spiritual concerns.

That was the message Auxiliary Bishop Anthony C. Fisher of Sydney brought to the United States recently in his role as coordinator of World Youth Day 2008, which will take place July 15-20, 2008, in Sydney.

Bishop Fisher said the planning team expects about 25,000 U.S. young people to attend, similar to the number of Americans who went to Germany for World Youth Day in 2005.

"But from what they're telling me now, 25,000 may be a very conservative number," the Australian bishop said in a telephone interview from Orange, Calif., after a meeting with Auxiliary Bishop Jaime Soto of Orange, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Subcommittee on Youth and Young Adults, and other U.S. planners for World Youth Day.

"So I'm going back looking for more" places to house World Youth Day pilgrims from the United States and other countries, Bishop Fisher said.

In addition to the events in Sydney, young Catholics will be able to experience the pre-World Youth Day activities known as Days in the Dioceses, in which pilgrims stay with families or parishes throughout the host country to learn more about the place they are visiting.

In 2008, however, participants in the Days in the Dioceses might stay in Australia or New Zealand. "The 24 dioceses of Australia will be joined by the six New Zealand dioceses in hosting" World Youth Day visitors, Bishop Fisher said.

The bishop said his country has much to offer American young people and is located about as far away from the U.S. as Germany is, for those on the West Coast.

"We speak more or less the same language, and it's easier culturally" than Germany was for Americans, he added.

Although it will be winter in the Southern Hemisphere in July, materials on the World Youth Day 2008 Web site list the average high temperature in Sydney in July at 66 degrees Fahrenheit and the average low at 49 degrees F -- comparable to Paris, London or Washington in May, the site says.

The Web site at www.wyd2008.org offers preparatory materials for parishes, schools and individuals planning to join in World Youth Day, as well as an opportunity for those who cannot travel to Australia to share in the preparations.

The theme for the 2008 gathering is "You Will Receive Power When the Holy Spirit Has Come Upon You; and You Will Be My Witnesses," taken from Chapter 1, Verse 8 of the Acts of the Apostles. The Pontifical Council for the Laity, which organizes the international World Youth Days, set similar themes related to the Holy Spirit and mission for 2006 and 2007 preparatory study sessions.

Through an "e-pilgrimage," participants will be alerted to a monthly pilgrim pack on the Internet, including catechesis on the World Youth Day themes, testimonies of young people who have gone to other World Youth Days and information on such topics as the lives of young saints and pilgrimage sites around the world. The e-pilgrimage is available in all four official World Youth Day languages -- English, Spanish, French and Italian.

In late July, the WYD organizers launched a 15-minute video highlighting Australia's charms and the spiritual and cultural benefits of participation in World Youth Day.

Bishop Fisher, who has already visited the Philippines and South Korea to encourage participation in World Youth Day 2008, also has stops planned in Spain, France and Ireland and is scheduled to meet in Fiji with the bishops of the Pacific Islands.

"My main message (on the U.S. stop) is that Australia might seem very far away, but it is very closely connected personally and culturally to the States," the bishop said. ""And this may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see Australia."

But Bishop Fisher also is excited about the effects of World Youth Day on Australians of all ages.

"It's a great blessing to us in Australia," he said. When Australians see hundreds of thousands of young Catholics energized by their faith, he added, "it will be a real evangelizing moment."


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