Hundreds of thousands of people have greeted the Pope on his official arrival
for World Youth Day in the Australian city, Sydney. The pontiff has praised the
Australian government for apologizing to the country's indigenous people for
past injustices. From Sydney, Phil Mercer reports.
What has been called "Super Holy
Thursday" has attracted up to half-a-million people into the center of
Australia's biggest city. The Pope traveled across Sydney Harbor, accompanied
by a flotilla of vessels, before disembarking to address pilgrims on the
Earlier, Benedict used his first public appearance in Australia to
praise a government apology to the country's Aborigines for injustices committed
in the past. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd formally apologized to
indigenous people, earlier this year, in a historic act of
The Pope says it was a brave move that offered hope to
disadvantaged people, around the world.
"Their ancient heritage forms an
essential part of the cultural landscape of modern Australia," he said. "Thanks
to the Australian government's courageous decision to acknowledge the injustices
committed against the indigenous peoples in the past, concrete steps are now
being taken to achieve reconciliation."
The Pope is in Australia for
World Youth Day, an international festival that celebrates the faith of young
Catholics from all over the world. Pilgrims have come from all corners; from
South America and Europe to Indonesia and the South Pacific island nation of the
Eighteen-year-old Colombian student Marcela Franco has
traveled from her home, in Bogota, to see the Pope.
"Oh, my God!" she
exclaimed. "I don't know. It's just a spiritual experience, you know. I'm so
excited. I mean, it's going to be amazing. "You see the Pope, and you go to
many Catechesis, you know. It's a lot of information, a lot of learning about
this. A great experience."
World Youth Day began in the mid 1980's
and has become a pivotal part of the Catholic calendar. The event in Sydney has
taken five years to plan and is attracting more people than the 2000 Olympics
that were staged in Australia's iconic harborside city.
ten-day visit, Pope Benedict is expected to apologize for sexual abuse by the
clergy in Australia.
Concerns about climate change will also be addressed
by the leader of the world's billion Catholics.
The highlight of World
Youth Day is a giant open-air papal mass in Sydney on Sunday.