Friday, July 18, 2008

Off to Randwick

As the Pope celebrated Mass in St Mary's, the pilgrims began heading en masse to Randwick Racecourse, where the expected turnout of a half-million for tonight's Vigil will transform the place into Australia's 10th largest city.

With seven hours to go 'til B16's arrival, the pre-Pope performances at the site have already gotten underway.

Suffice it to say, no jugglers this time.

SVILUPPO: Just in case anyone's still inclined to slam the whole shebang as nothing more than one big modernist "happy party," take note -- a bigger-than-expected deluge of penitents forced the last-minute setup of "emergency" confessionals:
Priests have taken plastic chairs and are sitting on the ground to take the "overwhelming" number of young people looking to confess their sins.

"There's too much. I came at one o'clock and there were so many people here I thought I had to help the other priests," said Father Bernard Speringer, a priest from Austria.

"The sisters had planned (for confession) but they were overwhelmed by so many."
Father Bernard sat forward in his black robes, playing with his program like rosary beads, as a queue of pilgrims banked up to use his makeshift confessional.

Other priests held the foreheads of pilgrims as they kneeled before them or crouched against merchandise tents for privacy.

Sharmilli Gunasingam was using confession for the second time, inspired by the other pilgrims around her.

"I'm glad I did it," she said.

"I realise that at a place like this you have got to do it."

Rufina Cheung uses confession about once a year and says it allows her to let go of her problems.

She was part of the queue growing near another priest.
PHOTO: AP/Andrew Brownbill(1); Stephen Siewert/Sydney Morning Herald(2)