Catholic Youth Parramatta

Bishop Anthony’s WYD Blog for 23-25 July


Bishop Anthony’s WYD Blog for 23-25 July
Photography: Alphonsus Fok

23, 24 & 25 July (Tues, Wed & Thurs)

On Tuesday night our pilgrims joined more than half a million others for the Opening Mass of World Youth Day, celebrated by Archbishop Orani Joao Tempesta, on the beach at Copacabana.

‘Tempesta’ is the Archbishop's name and a tempest we got: it rained off and on all night (and for the rest of the week that followed), the altar candles were blown over and their glass lamps smashed, and the bishops had to wear plastic ponchos over their vestments.

Yet the young people were attentive and devout, some of the music was very beautiful, and the artistry of lights, sounds and images enhanced it all.

Amongst others there were prayers for unemployed youth, for street children murdered near the La Candelaria church where our pilgrims are being catechised, and for the young French woman who died while on mission in French Guiana on her way to WYD.

Archbishop Tempesta said that: “This week Rio has become the centre of the Church, its heart both youthful and vibrant. You have come from all over the world to share together in the faith and the joy of being disciples in and missionaries to all nations. Everywhere, youthful enthusiasm shows in the faces of young Christians, who wish to unite the testimony of an authentic and Christian life with the social dimension of the Gospel ... We are called to be agents of a new world ... in your cities and countries. The world needs young people like you.”

Catechesis on the theme ‘Thirsting for hope, thirsting for God’ began the next day and the Parramatta pilgrims joined those of several other Anglophone countries at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception for my catechesis and the Mass of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Bishop Anthony’s WYD13 Homily - Votive Mass of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

Bishop Anthony’s WYD13 Catechesis I - Thirsting for Hope, Thirsting for God

In this beautiful French Romantic church the session was animated by the Diocese of Birmingham in England (the Archbishop and his auxiliary joined us) and there was a large contingent from Brooklyn also. JP (John Paul Escarlan) our deacon and our seminarians served for the beautiful liturgy.

Bishop Anthony’s WYD Blog for 23-25 July
Photography: Alphonsus Fok

Then all the Australian pilgrims made their way to the Aussie Gathering. It was an excellent mix of prayer, music and evangelical Catholicism. Bishop Prowse from Sale gave a really stirring talk and several other bishops as well as the Australian ambassador, Fr Chris Ryan, Malcolm Hart – Senior Youth Ministry Projects Officer with the ACBC, and some pilgrims contributed.

Cardinal Pell – who amusingly described himself as a cup of camomile tea at the end of the day calming everyone down – poked a little fun at the Parramattans and their bishop for the difficulties they'd experienced.

Today our pilgrims attended their appointed catechesis site – the splendid baroque Candelaria church – and Cardinal Pell taught and celebrated with them. As my own catechesis session was cancelled I was able to join them and the bishops, clergy and pilgrims of many countries.

On the way out I expressed my sympathy to them for the difficulties caused by all the rain. “Don't worry about us, bishop,” they said. “We're dry enough and we're happy – really happy.” Yet again they delighted me by their generosity and optimism.

Bishop Anthony’s WYD Blog for 23-25 July
Photography: Alphonsus Fok

Although he had been doing many things for days – especially with poor youth, those battling addictions, or at the national Shine of Our Lady of Aparecida – it was not until last night that the Holy Father at last officially arrived at WYD.

Amidst cries of “esta es la juventud del Papa” (this is the Pope’s Youth) the crowd of a million gathered on Copacabana Beach greeted him with great excitement.

Meanwhile, I was on a bus full of bishops that could not get through the crowds and security blockade. With a police escort it tried another route – and got lost! A hundred or so bishops ended up getting to the Papal welcome half way through the ceremony.

Five young people were presented to the Pope, one from each continent, all of them deeply moved. A very impressive mix of high-tech sound and lights, dance and living tableaux presented the history of the evangelisation of the Americas, including pageants of conquistadors, merchants, mercenaries and missionaries, of the discovery of the statue of Our Lady of Aparecida by a fisherman, and of the continued progress of the Gospel in the Western Hemisphere.

Following the proclamation of the Gospel the Holy Father challenged the young people to “Put on Christ, put on faith, put on hope, put on love!” Like putting salt and pepper on our food, so “if you want your life to have real meaning and fulfilment — as you want and deserve – then I say to each one of you: Put on faith and your life will take on a new flavour, you will have a compass to show you the way. Put on hope and your days will be enlightened, your horizon no longer dark but luminous. Put on love and your life will be like a house built on rock, your journey will be joyful for many friends will journey with you. Put on Christ!”

Pope Francis called our young people to be reconciled with Christ, others and themselves through receiving the Sacrament of Penance; to be nourished by feeding on the Flesh of the Eucharist, the sacrament of Christ’s presence, the sacrifice of love; to encounter and share with their contemporaries of every nation through voluntary work and catechesis.

Standing on the western edge of the Atlantic Ocean the successor of the Fisherman said: “Looking at this sea, the beach and all of you, I think of the moment Jesus called the first disciples to follow Him on the shore of the lake of Tiberias. Today Jesus asks us again: Do you want to be my disciple? Do you want to be my friend? Do you want to be a witness of my Gospel?”

As the statue of Our Lady of Aparecida appeared in a beautiful lit carriage and a replica was presented to Pope Francis he invited our young people to imitate the first and greatest disciple and missionary, Mary. “Christ is counting on us!”

Amidst the palpable joy of this night the endless rain made it increasingly clear that the Vigil and Final Mass could no longer be held at the Campus Fidei in Guaratiba. The grass-covered field had been reduced to a swamp, with knee-deep mud in some places.

Local and Vatican officials announced that the Pope and pilgrims would return to Copacabana for the Vigil and Final Mass. There was great relief all round, as this would be much easier. But it must be an enormous headache for the organisers who must move services such as toilets, water and food distribution, the requirements for the Vigil and Mass, screens, security, medical care and all the rest! They are very much in our prayers at this time.

Tomorrow will be another adventure ...

Read all pilgrim blog posts at

Go to WYD13 Pilgrimage Photo Gallery - Rio 24 July

Go to WYD13 Pilgrimage Photo Gallery - Rio 25 July

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