Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Snippets from Down Under

I sometimes hear from readers in Australia who feel neglected with all the coverage of things US and Roman. Hopefully, this'll make up for my omissions... somewhat.

First off, the planning committee for the next World Youth Day extravaganza, to be held in Sydney in two years' time, sat last week for a major meeting under the serene and kindly gaze of the event's secretary-general, Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Fisher, OP.

Among the major issues discussed were the need for an event-specific official hymn. A competition will probably be held, but the organizers are looking for something playable in both English and Latin, with easy translations into Spanish, Italian and French (but not German?). Of course, considering the event's true focus, couldn't the chorus just be adapted from the old workhorse, "We're off to see the Wizard, the incorrigible Wizard of Oz?"

On the evening of Benedict XVI's anticipated arrival -- he'll be 81 by that time -- the plan is to hold vespers for the Pope and bishops in attendance at Sydney's St Mary's Cathedral.... As one friend says, "So much for the 'Y' in WYD...."

One of the showpiece events is looking to be the Stations of the Cross, and the organizers are said to be keen for it to be held on Sydney Harbour with barges -- which means that it'll be a million times more expensive than the first Stations. For the vigil and final liturgy, the area around Homebush Stadium -- or, as it was better known in 2000, "Olympic Stadium" -- is being sighted, with the young people (and the Pope and bishops) on an adjacent field, handicapped pilgrims in the velodrome, and adults in the 100,000-seat stadium proper.

Going back to the Harbour Stations idea, it'd be a bit odd to have the Cross be carried via barge as opposed to foot, no? If Cathy Freeman could walk on water at the Opening Ceremonies of the Sydney Games, can't Jesus do the same for World Youth Day?

I'm just sayin'....

Speaking of advancing the Aboriginal cause, Benedict recently addressed the Holy See's new Australian ambassador on the importance of seeking the forgiveness of the continent's native population.

Archbishop Barry Hickey said today he was pleased Pope Benedict XVI had spoken about the "international shame" of Australia's treatment of Aboriginal people. Pope Benedict reportedly has told Australia's new ambassador to the Vatican, Anne Marie Plunkett, the Australian Government should seek forgiveness from Aboriginal people and open the way to lasting reconciliation.

It was believed to be the first time the Pope has spoken of the plight of Australian aborigines.

Today, Archbishop Hickey, who was also Chairman of the Australian Catholic Bishops Commission for Relations with Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders, said people in his congregation and the wider Catholic community would also welcome the Pope's moral leadership on the issue.

Everyone should do what they can to form relationships and friendships with Aboriginal people, Archbishop Hickey said.

And, in case you don't already, a worthwhile weekly listen/read is Stephen Crittenden's Religion Report on ABC (that's Australian Broadcasting's) National Radio. It airs weekly on Wednesday, i.e. Tuesday afternoon in the States.

Last week's programme (text and audio at the link) focused on three stories of which would be of interest here: Bishop David Walker of Broken Bay on a new secular initiative for laypeople in church service who'd take promises of celibacy in his diocese, just north of Sydney; an interview with The Tablet's Eastern Europe correspondent on the continuing furor over the controversial Polish broadcaster Radio Maryja on the eve of the Pope's visit (he leaves Thursday), and a tribute to Jaroslav Pelikan.

Aussies, as always, you know we're here for you on the other side of the globe.... Keep the stories comin'.