Pope Benedict has arrived near Australia's biggest city, Sydney, for World
Youth Day celebrations. Hundreds of thousands of young pilgrims from around
world are also expected to attend. The pontiff told reporters on his
plane that he would address the crisis of sexual abuse committed by Catholic
priests. From Sydney, Phil Mercer reports.
Pope Benedict flew more than 20 hours from
the Vatican and landed at a military base near Sydney on Sunday where he was
greeted by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. The Pope will spend several
days resting at a retreat outside Sydney before his official World Youth Day
engagements begin on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters on his flight to
Australia, Benedict said he would work during his 10 day pilgrimage to promote
healing and reconciliation with the victims of clergy sexual abuse.
issue of pedophile priests in Australia has overshadowed the build-up to the
Sydney archbishop, Cardinal George Pell, has been
criticized for allegedly trying to protect a priest who has since been convicted
of molesting children.
The Cardinal has strongly denied any wrongdoing
but admits that cases of abuse have harmed the Church's reputation.
scandals of the Church are well known. They've damaged us. Where I have a long
record of faithful implementation of new protocols which I put in place in
and up here, we're not covering up," he said. "Since the middle
90s, whatever the imperfections in particular cases through a lack of
information or that, throughout Australia,
substantially, we've done what we
should and we're quite prepared to stand by our record. We haven't been able to
heal all the hurts."
Benedict will preside over the 23rd World Youth Day,
which is expected to attract more visitors to Sydney than the Olympic Games in
At its peak, organizers have said the Catholic festival will draw
half a million people into the center of Australia's most populous city. The
streets will host dozens of concerts and shows as well as sidewalk
The event has taken five years to plan. Much of central
Sydney will be closed to traffic, causing logistical problems for businesses and
Anti-pope demonstrators are also planning to mark the
pontiff's visit by handing out condoms to foreign pilgrims. Activists have
promised to greet the pope with banners
celebrating contraception and
The New South Wales state government has brought in new
powers for police to fine people for causing annoyance to World Youth Day
participants. Opponents of the laws
have said they're draconian and rights
groups have challenged their validity in the courts.