In scenes reminiscent of Woodstock or other great open-air festivals, Pope Benedict XVI has celebrated mass at the end of World Youth Day in Sydney. The figures are awe-inspiring: half a million Catholics turned up at Randwick Jockey Club to see the Pope, more than a thousand priests were available to hear confession, the pilgrims hailed from more than 170 nations.
World Youth Day was launched by Benedict’s predecessor, John Paul II, who hoped to revitalise young Catholics in the face of surging consumerism and greed. World Youth Day has been overshadowed, though, by the scandal of sexual abuse in the church in Australia. The Pope has issued a public apology, admitting his shame, and demanding the perpetrators be brought to justice.
On a lighter note, the Pope enjoyed a helicopter flight over what is one of the most dramatic cities in the world. He leaves Australia tomorrow, for Rome and his summer residence at Castelgandolfo, after what has been the 81-year old’s longest foreign trip, five days of peace, love and Christianity.