July 11, 2008
The United States will send 15,000 young people to World Youth Day, the international event convened by Pope Benedict XVI, scheduled to take place in Sydney, Australia, from July 15 through 20. According to U.S. organizers, this will be the largest delegation representing any country outside of Australia. The young pilgrims will be joined by 50 U.S. bishops, including Cardinal Francis George, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The young people, most of whom are in their late teens and young adult years, are traveling to Australia in 1,140 groups that range in varying sizes up to 520 individuals. Typically, the groups are organized by dioceses, parishes, religious associations and schools, though some groups are families who have chosen to make the journey on their own.
The gathering in Sydney marks the tenth international celebration of World Youth Day. The international celebration has occurred every two or three years since Pope John Paul II established it in 1985. In 1993, the international celebration of World Youth Day took place in Denver.
For the first time at World Youth Day the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will sponsor a Mass for all U.S. groups in Sydney. Cardinal George will preside and deliver the homily on Saturday morning, July 19, at an outdoor location in the center of Sydney. Concelebrating with him will be other U.S. bishops who will also use the opportunity to meet with young people from their dioceses. Musicians from Oregon Catholic Press and World Library Publications will give a concert prior to the Mass.
Young people from the United States will also take prominent roles in other aspects of the World Youth Day events. Armando Cervantes from the Diocese of Orange will be among 12 young adults from all parts of the world who will have lunch with the Holy Father on Friday, July 18, in Sydney. In addition, Juan Martinez from the Diocese of Austin, Texas will receive the Sacrament of Confirmation from Pope Benedict along with other young people at the closing Mass of World Youth Day on Sunday, July 20.
Annalee Moyer, from the Archdiocese of Washington and Leonardo Jaramillo, from the Archdiocese of Atlanta, were selected to be members of a two hundred-person group known as the International Liturgy Group. Members take leading parts in all the major events of World Youth Day including the papal ceremonies and liturgies. They function as a representative group for all the World Youth Day pilgrims.
“I am truly blessed by this opportunity to experience the universal Church in such a unique way with my peers from around the world,” said Moyer.
Australian organizers expect approximately 100,000 youths from their own country and 125,000 international visitors to make the World Youth Day pilgrimage to Sydney this month.