The Australian Gathering brought together 3,000 pilgrims from city and rural dioceses in NSW, Tasmania, Western and South Australia, Queensland, Victoria, the ACT, and the Northern Territory at Tauron Arena in Krakow on July 26, ahead of the World Youth Day opening Mass.
The mood at the two-hour event was buoyant, with presenters sharing prayers, songs and individual stories of mercy. Pilgrims heard about one Port Pirie nun’s project to document small acts of mercy each day in 2016, from a little girl sharing canteen money with a younger girl and a neighbour fixing her gate, to a soccer player congratulating an opposing goal scorer.
In experiencing, sharing, and observing mercy we discover God’s constant and transformative love.
They also heard The Parramatta Diocese’s Chris Lee speak about reaffirming his faith after he was stabbed in the eye during a fight in Kings Cross. He needed multiple surgeries in the eight months that followed. Chris told the audience he had done the wrong thing and been show mercy in his recovery, turning to God to make sense of the situation when his attacker was not charged for the assault.
“So many of us here carry around pain, guilt and personal suffering, hoping that a person will apologise, but often they won’t,” he said. “If the Catholic Church could take a selfie of itself …for me it would be a picture of compassion and justice.”
Among the 3,000 gathered at the arena were 19 Australian bishops, 120 priests, and 36 nuns and brothers. Australian ambassador to Poland Paul Wojciechowski wished pilgrims a “fantastic and hugely spiritual experience” of Krakow and reminded them his consulate was there to help if needed. After multi-lingual prayers of intercession read by young Australians, Fr Rob Galea led pilgrims in song. Bishop Peter Comensoli also spoke.
Pilgrims welcome the Year of Youth
During the Australian gathering, the Australian Catholic Bishop’s Conference announced 2018 as the Year of Youth. The event marks the 10th anniversary of the 28th World Youth Day hosted by Sydney. The Year of Youth will begin with the next Australian Catholic Youth Festival, to be held in Sydney in December next year.
Director of the Australian Catholic Bishop’s Office for Youth, Malcom Hart, said the anniversary of WYD ’08 invited people to reflect on the past and be inspired for the future.
“The Year of Youth aims to remember the great impact of World Youth Day and the challenge it continually presents to us to make a difference moving forward: to nurture the physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing and safety of our young people,” he said.
“This responsibility does not fall to senior church leaders alone, but to you. This is about you being of service to your friends, family and community – agents of God’s merciful love within and beyond your community.”
The Australian Gathering can be viewed via XT3’s live webcast of the event.