Cologne (AsiaNews) The choice of Sydney as the setting for the next WYD in 2008 announced yesterday by the Pope in Cologne, has sparked enthusiasm among Catholics and non-Catholics, church and political leaders, young and adult Australians. It is seen as a bid to boost evangelization of Asia and also as a big economic opportunity.
Fr John Usher, Chancellor of the diocese chosen says he is "honoured" by the pope's decision. And he said Benedict XVI's visit to Sydney would strengthen Catholicism in Australia. "This I think is a commitment the Pope is making to the southern hemisphere and particularly to the Asian area of the world, and I think it's a great thing for us that he's coming to this part of the world so early," Fr Usher said.
Cardinal George Pell, the city's archbishop, is the most enthusiastic of all. Speaking in Cologne, he said a visit by Benedict VXI would be only the fourth papal visit to the nation.
"I hope the WYD will strengthen the faith, I hope it will reinforce all those values that make Australian society good, like social justice, solidarity, family life, respect for life," he said. "The event is addressed first of all to Catholics but it will be open to anyone."
Prime Minister John Howard declared himself happy about the pope's decision: "It is a wonderful announcement. My government will work with Cardinal Pell and his team to make World Youth Day in Sydney a truly memorable event."
Enthusiasm is running high among Australian youth who were in Cologne.
"All the young people of the world can come and just see how marvellous we really are," one young man said. And a girl: "Go Australia! Really excited. Can't wait. It's gonna be a great time."
Among those who are "excited" is Sandra Nori, Tourism Minister of New South Wales (the province where Sydney is). And with good reason: the WYD could draw many more visitors than the 2000 Olympics to Australia. "That of course will bring its own economic benefits. These young people will also in large proportion travel before and afterwards around Australia. They'll be repeat visitors later on in life. A lot of global profile for Sydney because the WYD is a huge event."