Benedict XVI begins journey toward WYD in Sydney
After three days of rest, events with the young culminating with the vigil and Eucharistic celebration. Tens of thousands of young people from 160 countries are arriving in Australia. Cardinal Pell: Australia's problem is indifference. Controversy over special regulations against those who disrupt WYD.

Rome (AsiaNews) - This morning, Benedict XVI began his 9th international voyage, which will take him to Sydney, Australia, for the 23rd World Youth Day. The theme is "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses" (Acts 1:8). The plane with the pope on board left the Rome-Fiumicino airport at 10:30 a.m., and will arrive in Australia after a 20-hour flight.

Benedict XVI will spend the first three days of his stay in Australia at the Kenthurst Study Centre, a retreat centre owned by Opus Dei, just outside of Sydney. There he will rest and prepare for WYD, which will culminate in the evening vigil on Saturday and in the Eucharistic celebration on Sunday, July 20. His first encounter with the young people will take place on Thursday, July 17, in Rose Bay, where the pope will board the ship "Sydney 2000", to be welcomed by a group of young aborigines. After the boat docks at Barangaroo, he will inaugurate the great welcoming celebration for the young people. Pope Ratzinger will return to Italy on Monday, July 21.

At the Angelus last Sunday, Benedict XVI asked all Catholics to accompany WYD with prayer. "I am certain", he said, "that from every corner of the world, Catholics will unite with me and with the young people gathered together, as in a Cenacle, in Sydney, intensely invoking the Holy Spirit, so that he may flood hearts with interior light, with love for God and for neighbour, with courageous initiative in introducing the eternal message of Jesus in the various languages and cultures".

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of young people are coming to Sydney from at least 160 countries, especially from Asia and Oceania. Organisers expect up to 200,000 people, in a country marked by strong secularisation.

In an interview with Vatican Radio, Cardinal George Pell, archbishop of Sydney, said he is afraid that there will be "less enthusiasm" in Australia than is typically shown for papal visits. "For us", he added, "indifference is the problem".

For one year, the World Youth Day Cross has been passing through all of the dioceses of Australia (see photo) to stir up interest among young people.

In recent days, there has been a great deal of discussion in Australia over the special rules established on the occasion of the papal visit and WYD. They permit the police to arrest people who disrupt WYD by their actions or gestures. Radical liberal groups accuse the government of restricting freedom of expression. In reality, the special regulations should simply help to maintain public order in a situation of overcrowding, something rarely seen in Australian life.