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 CNS Story:

WYD-CATECHESIS (UPDATED) Jul-17-2008 (xxx words) xxxi

Vatican diplomat tells WYD pilgrims Spirit guides them to God

By Dan McAloon
Catholic News Service

SYDNEY, Australia (CNS) -- The Vatican's ambassador to Egypt told World Youth Day pilgrims that the Holy Spirit will guide them in their relationship with God and stick with them when they leave the international youth festival.

Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald told New Zealand and Pakistani youths gathered in St. Aloysius Gonzaga Church in southern Sydney July 16 that the Holy Spirit "confirms the Christian's special relationship with God."

"It is the Spirit that helps us to relate to the Father and Son, and it is the Spirit that allows us to pray," said the archbishop during the talk.

He added that if pilgrims hungered to experience the Holy Spirit in their lives "ask the Spirit for words."

"That's what we're proclaiming -- the Spirit comes to overcome sin in us, to overcome anything that stands between us and God," said Archbishop Fitzgerald.

Archbishop Fitzgerald led one of hundreds of catechetical sessions offered to pilgrims July 16-18, part of the July 15-20 World Youth Day activities in Sydney. The session at St. Aloysius Gonzaga Church took place in the beachside neighborhood that in December 2005 was rocked by violence against Lebanese Muslims. A rowdy, impromptu beach demonstration organized by local surfers to protest a growing Lebanese presence on the beach degenerated into a into a drunken melee that left several people hospitalized. Angry Lebanese youths in cars later retaliated with assaults on local people and property at Brighton Le Sands and Maroubra beaches.

Since then government-instituted community education programs involving police, local religious leaders and sport groups like the Surf Life Saving Association have underscored the need for tolerance and acceptance. These have since led to better consultation and improved relationships between ethnic youth groups in Sydney.

During the talk, Archbishop Fitzgerald said the pilgrim seeking an encounter with Christ only had to "find five or 10 minutes a day to kneel or sit with Christ in prayer."

"If you meditate on the Scriptures you will meet the Holy Spirit, and the word of God will come to you," he said. Once evoked, he said, the Holy Spirit would not be diverted in its mission to bring that individual fully to Christ.

"Like a magnet that when it touches metal leaves some magnetism in the metal, so it is with us. It is the Spirit that enables us to seek reconciliation" and renews, said the archbishop.

"But it can unsettle you, too, even bring you into conflict in your own family where there is a believer and another who is not," said the archbishop, who used the example of Blessed Mother Teresa when she started her ministry to the poor of Calcutta, India.

"She was one who had to leave her own (Sisters of) Loreto congregation to found a new one (Missionaries of Charity) at the willing of the Holy Spirit," he said.

Meanwhile, Archbishop Fitzgerald told the youths gathered that his vocation as a priest of the Missionaries of Africa had been apparent "from the age of 9 or 10."

"As a Catholic in an English grammar school I was not allowed to take religious lessons, but I sought out my catechist, a sister, who taught me well. She gave me some of her magnetism -- it rubbed off on me," he explained.

Archbishop Fitzgerald said accepting the Holy Spirit in his life had later taken him through many unexpected ministries -- studying theology in French in Tunisia, teaching Arabic and theology in Rome, and teaching Islam to Muslims in Uganda.

The church says "you should look at other religions with respect," he said, adding that teaching Islam was "a challenge that worked out well." His studies of other faiths enriched his Christian belief and were good preparation for the years when he was president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

Asked by a pilgrim what would happen after World Youth Day "when I feel a lessening of power as the magnet is taken away from me," Archbishop Fitzgerald assured him that nothing would be lost.

"You will store up the wonderful things that have happened here in Sydney and you will feel this experience continuing," he said. "You may miss the company, you may be on your own, but you can be united with the church wherever you are. Remember, the Spirit will be with you."

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Visit the Catholic News Service World Youth Day blog at http://cnswyd.wordpress.com.


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