Sixty-eight young people will be traveling to World Youth Day this summer with the Archdiocese of Armagh.

World Youth Day was initiated by Pope John Paul II. It has been held every year since 1986 when the first event was held in Rome. While it is usually held on Palm Sunday the Holy Father calls an international gathering once every three years. This year sees the 10th international World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia from the 15th-20th July.

World Youth Day is the Catholic Church’s week of events. It gathers thousands of young people from around the world to celebrate and learn about the Catholic faith and to build bridges of friendship and hope between continents, peoples and cultures. During this week the group will take part in a week of events with young Catholics from throughout the world. Our own Cardinal Sean Brady plans to join us for this week.

The programme of events for this week include:

  • Tuesday – Opening Mass for 300,000 young people, celebrated by Sydney Archbishop Cardinal George Pell
  • Wednesday to Friday – Catechesis (teaching) sessions every morning and Youth Festival events afternoon / evening
  • Thursday – Arrival and welcome of Pope Benedict XVI
  • Friday evening – Stations of the Cross
  • Saturday – Pilgrimage walk to Sydney Racecourse where there will be an evening Vigil with the Holy Father and half a million other young people from around the world. We will sleep out “under the stars” on the Saturday night awaiting the Pope’s return for closing Mass on Sunday.

Before this week of events (that is from the 8th-12th July) a parish in Nelson, New Zealand will host the 68 pilgrims from the Archdiocese for the Days in the Diocese. Nelson parish have a priest who is originally from the Archdiocese so we are truly forging a link between the Archdiocese of Armagh and the Diocese of Wellington. This time is an excellent opportunity for the young people of the Archdiocese:

  • to join local young people from Wellington in prayer and celebration,
  • to experience Australia beyond Sydney,
  • to help renew the Church in the places they visit,
  • as well as to receive local hospitality.
It is an opportunity for a cultural exchange in the context of faith.
Activities of the days, organised by the dioceses, often include:

  • Encounters with the local Church community
  • Cultural activities and visits to local sites of interest
  • Prayer and visits to shrines
  • Social service projects

This is a great opportunity for us to celebrate being young Catholics in today’s world.  The Archdiocese have been taking young people to international World Youth Day’s since 1998 and the feedback from those who have been involved proves the benefit of being involved in such an event.  The leaders from previous pilgrimages have been amazed at the impact this experience has had on the young people attending.  Feedback from those young people who attended in 2005 includes:

“I met so many new friends and learned about different cultures from around the world”

“I didn’t expect to get so much from the Pope’s Mass, it was amazing!”

“I didn’t realise there were so many young people involved in the Church.  I now realise I am a vital part of the catholic and Irish community”

“The atmosphere was amazing, you couldn’t describe it”

“I get so much more from my faith now – my World Youth Day experience has deepened it”