From the Philippines to Singapore, thousands of young people with the pope for WYD
by Santosh Digal
Hundreds of Filipino Catholics are ready to leave for Sydney, but many pilgrims are still waiting for visas from the Australian authorities. Another 400 will arrive from Singapore. The bishop there is calling on them to be "witnesses of the proclamation of Christ".

Manila (AsiaNews) - Two weeks before the event, groups of Asian Catholics are beginning their preparations for World Youth Day, scheduled for Sydney, Australia, from July 15-20: the delegation from the Philippines is expected to include at least 600 young people, but many others are still waiting for visas from the Australian authorities.  Another 400 pilgrims will arrive from Singapore.

According to the president of the Episcopal Commission on Youth (ECY) in the Philippines, Bishop Joel Baylon, the "438 young people, sisters, and priests who have taken part in recent days in a preparatory meeting for World Youth Day will be joined by groups from the diocese of Mindanao, for a total of about 600 people".  The meeting was helpful, the bishop of Masbate emphasises, to focus attention on the themes at the centre of the gathering, and it "raised lively interest among all the participants". Fr Conegundo Garganta, executive secretary of the ECY, is looking to the preparatory meeting to be held tomorrow, July 2, in Davao: "We have chosen the perfect spot for the young people of Mindanao, avoiding the need for them to spend extra money to travel from the islands to the capital".  "There are many young people and faithful", Fr Garganta stresses, "who would have liked to have gone to WYD, but are unable to for financial reasons", while many others "are waiting for visas".

In Singapore, about 400 pilgrims are expected to go to the 23rd edition of World Youth Day: last June 21, Archbishop Nicholas Chia called for special prayers for the participants, blessing them and expressing the hope that they will "transmit a strong message" under the banner of the proclamation of God.  "The most important problem of youths today", says the archbishop of Singapore, "is that they have no time for God, and only have time for fun.  But you are demonstrating concretely the need for God in everyone's life: be witnesses of this to others!"

From July  15-20, Sydney will host the 23rd edition of World Youth Day, an event promoted and strongly desired by John Paul II, who always paid special attention to young people.  It was a mutual affection, considering the huge crowds of young people who every two or three years responded to the pontiff's invitation from every corner of the world.  The theme of this edition - which will include moments of prayer, Masses, Stations of the Cross, and an encounter with Benedict XVI - is taken from the Acts of the Apostles, and is a concrete invitation to mission: "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses".