22 July 2008

WYD 2008, day 6

Sunday morning for the pilgrims began with an 8:00 morning prayer. At 9:00, the papal motorcade began its trip through Randwick. Mass began at 10:00. Besides the pilgrims who had camped out overnight, many other pilgrims arrived early Sunday morning to attend the Mass, as did many residents of Sydney. Organizers anticipated up to 500,000 people for the final Mass. The actual number was put at 300,000 by the police and at 400,000 by the WYD officials. In any case, there were a lot of people! Yours truly chose to observe the celebration from a somewhat more remote location—the living room of the friary.

All week long, pilgrims had been speculating about where the next WYD would be held. The prevailing rumor was that it would be in Spain. That rumor turned out to be true, as the Holy Father announced that WYD 2011 would be held in Madrid. It is an interesting choice given the current tensions between the bishops and the government of Spain. It became crystal clear to me during this week in Sydney that a World Youth Day needs the cooperation and support of the local government in order to succeed. Here in Sydney, for instance, streets were closed to traffic, extra bus and train services were added, bus routes were changed, public structures, such as the Opera House and the Exhibition Centre, were given over exclusively to WYD and the normal rhythms of the city were disrupted for the week. None of that could have happened without the support of the local government. So how will this work in Spain? If the government refuses to cooperate, it could score a moral victory against the Church, but it might also negatively affect the image of Spain in the eyes of the world. If, on the other hand, the government works together with the Church to make WYD a success, it could increase tourism to Spain, but at the risk of alienating some of the stauncher members of the Socialist Party. It will be interesting to see what happens.

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