Sydney (Agenzia Fides) -Australian Catholics need to deepen and strengthen their faith, they need new motivation and opportunities to rediscover and intensify their sense of belonging to the universal. One such opportunity is the journey of the pilgrim WYD Cross and Icon across the length and breadth of the country until the rendezvous in July 2008 for the 23rd Catholic World Youth Day in Sydney.
Recently the pilgrimage stopped in the diocese of Broken Bay. The event coincided with the publication of a report by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on religion in the country. According to the report Christianity is still the principal religion in Australia (some 12.7 million declared Christians). However the percentage today of 64% is lower than ten years go when it was 71%.
The largest Christian groups are as follows: Catholic: 5.1 million 25.8% of Australians; Anglicans 19%; the denomination with the most growth is Pentecostal, increase by 26%, with a total 220,000 members. According to the ABS report the largest non Christian communities are Buddhist (2,1%), Islam (1,7%) Hinduism (0,7%) and their numbers are growing: the presence of Hindus has more than doubled in the decade 1996 - 2006 and the same is true for Buddhism. The report says a concerning number of Australians 3.7 million say they have “no religion”: a percentage which has increased in the period 1996-2006 from 16.6% to 18.7%.
However the organisers of the World Youth Day are confident that preparation and celebration of this major Catholic Church event which is in its 22nd edition will do much to strengthen the faith of believers and lead many to meet Christ and so to believe. Bishop Philip Wilson, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Australia, said he is optimistic and confident for the future of the Church. This hope was confirmed by the fact that an all night prayer vigil organised in the diocese of Broken Bay on the occasion of the visit by the WYD Cross and Icon brought together thousands of young people, Catholics, other Christians, European and Indigenous, immigrants to pray and praise the Lord and Creator. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 16/7/2007 righe 26 parole 278)