Sydney (Agenzia Fides) - The symbols of the world's largest youth event - the World Youth Day Cross and Icon of Our Lady - arrived in Australia in Sunday 1 July ahead of a day of welcome celebrations in Sydney. The 3.8 metre high Cross and accompanying Icon - a portrait of Mary, the Mother of Christ and the Child Jesus - was welcomed from New Zealand by Prime Minister John Howard, NSW Premier Morris Iemma, and hundreds of Australian youth, clergy and laity.
The Cross and Icon will travel to the shrine of Blessed Mary MacKillop in North Sydney where their 12-month pilgrimage to more than 400 Australian communities will formally start.
They will then be taken to Tumbalong Park, Darling Harbour where thousands are expected to welcome them in a public celebration from 1.30pm. Guy Sebastian and Paulini will premiere the official World Youth Day Sydney 2008 (WYD08) anthem, Receive the Power, a song Guy wrote with Gary Pinto for next year's event.
"The World Youth Day Cross has travelled on the shoulders of young people all over the world for more than 20 years, bringing the message of hope, peace and Christ's love for humanity," said Archbishop Philip Wilson, President of the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference. "These inspiring symbols will travel throughout this country, touching the lives of many young Australians on their way," he said. Archbishop Wilson, who is also Archbishop of Adelaide, and a delegation of youth from every Australian diocese will receive the Cross and Icon from the President of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops, Archbishop John Dew, and a delegation of New Zealand Catholic youth.
WYD08 Coordinator Bishop Anthony Fisher OP said the arrival of the Cross and Icon heralds the countdown to World Youth Day in Australia next July. "It is therefore a special time for Australians to be custodians of these simple, yet powerful symbols," Bishop Fisher said. "Like an Olympic torch, only more sacred and meaningful, these symbols will herald the coming of World Youth Day to Australia next year. In the meantime they will be carried upon the shoulders of young Australians and touch the hearts of us all." A full itinerary of the Journey of the Cross and Icon can be found at www.wyd2008.org. (K.P.) (Agenzia Fides 3/7/2007; righe 21, parole 275)