The month of July was marked by the final stages of preparation for the 23rd World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia. On 2 July the Holy Father gave the only audience of the month beginning a new series of catechesis dedicated to Saint Paul in this Year of Saint Paul.
Among the private audiences granted in July by the Holy Father Benedict XVI, we recall the audience on July 3 with Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, during which the Holy Father authorised the promulgation of decrees on the heroic virtues of Father Damian, missionary to the lepers in Molokai, and Mr and Mrs Martin, the parents of Saint Therese of Lisieux.
During the Angelus reflection on 6 July the Pope appealed to the participants at the G8 summit in Hokkaido-Toyako, to make the needs of the poorest and most needy people the centre of their deliberations.
On 14 July the Supreme Pontiff sent three messages. In the first the Pope said he hoped that young people taking part in WYD would “truly find rest in the Lord, and be filled with joy and fervour for spreading the Good News among their friends, their families, and all whom they meet.”; in the second in view of Mission Sunday 2008, the Holy Father said: “Today there are countless people who are waiting for the proclamation of the Gospel, those who are thirsting for hope and love. There are so many who let themselves be questioned deeply by this request for aid that rises up from humanity, who leave everything for Christ and transmit faith and love for Him to people!”; in the third addressed to the Holy See representative at Expo Zaragoza 2008, he reaffirmed that every person has the right to access clean water, a right “rooted in the dignity of the human person”.
At the beginning of July Benedict XVI moved to his Summer Residence in Castel Gandolfo, where he prepared for the important and demanding visit to Sydney to preside the celebration of 23rd World Youth Day. The Holy Father's long awaited presence in that part of the world started on 17 July with the welcoming ceremony at Government House; the same day the Pope took part in a welcoming celebration at Bangaroo Harbour, during which he said: “Before me I see a vibrant image of the universal Church”.
The next day the Pope presided an ecumenical meeting in the Crypt of St. Mary’s Cathedral, after which he went to the Cathedral Chapter Hall to meet representatives of other religions present in Australia.
Saturday 19 the Pontiff celebrated Mass with the Catholic Bishops of Australia and said in the homily “the question of God can never be kept quiet”; in the evening the Pope joined thousands of young people gathered at Randwick Racecourse for the WYD Prayer Vigil: “Gathered before our much-travelled Cross and the icon of Mary, and under the magnificent constellation of the Southern Cross, we pray” the Pope told the young people.
The culminating event of the Apostolic Journey was the celebration of WYD Mass on Sunday 20 July with the administration of the Sacrament of Confirmation and the announcement that Madrid, Spain, will host the next international Word Youth Day in 2010. On Monday 28 July the Holy Father travelled to the northern Italian mountain town of Brixen for a brief period of rest.