Question time was also on the menu when Bus 16 pilgrims lunched with Cardinal George Pell.
The pilgrims spent more than two hours on July 23 with the Cardinal at Rome’s Ristorante Dei Musei during free time, the day before leaving for Poland.
After the meal for which the Cardinal said grace, the students from De La Salle and Bethlehem colleges Ashfield, and Casimir Catholic College Marrickville listened attentively as Cardinal Pell spoke about the difference between a pilgrimage and travel. They also had the opportunity to ask questions.
Cardinal Pell placed importance on prayer and confession when asked how students should prepare for World Youth Day events in Krakow. He has been involved in every world youth day since the year 2000.
“He has a strong connection to World Youth Day and to Sydney so he was happy to meet with Sydney pilgrims,” said Bus 16 group leader Ruth Casey. “He spoke beautifully about the nature of pilgrimage and talked about how pilgrimage is not a retreat and how as Christians, community is important, and that sense of community comes from loving God.
“We went to very special restaurant that was run by a couple who have been in that same spot since 1920. Both the owner’s uncles are priests – one a Jesuit and one a Capuchin – so the family have a strong connection to the church.”
“He said what a pleasure it was to be amongst the pilgrims, and told them to pray for their schools, their families, and for guidance.
Bethlehem Year 10 student Molly McIntosh asked what Pope Francis was like. The Cardinal said he was ‘very much the person that you see’ and described the Pope as a man who lived simply as he had taken a vow of poverty. He praised Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher’s intelligence and strong connection to youth when asked by De La Salle Year 11 student Raphael Candelario how the Archbishop had been selected for his role, and said he believed young people now were more open to the Catholic faith than they had been generations ago.
Raphael said he was looking forward to feeling the deeper connection that comes from being surrounded by like-minded youth, especially at World Youth Day’s official Mass with the Pope where he will be surrounded by up to five million people.
“This is a once in a lifetime experience,” Raphael said. “You are able to explore a faith you thought was great on its own, but with everyone else here for the same purpose it’s a more uplifting and you get to share that faith with more young people around the world who believe the same thing you do.”
Official 2016 World Youth Day celebrations run from July 26 to August 1 in Krakow, Poland.