Over 3,000 Australians, 24 Bishops and performers including Gary Pinto and Fr Rob Galea gathered at Madrid’s Palacio de Deportes (sports stadium) today for the Australian gathering for World youth Day.
The Australian event brings together the various Dioceses, religious orders and movements who have been on pilgrimage in the Holy Land, as well as parts of Spain and Europe.
The 2011 gathering was attended by the 24 Australian Bishops accompanying their pilgrim groups, and the Australian Ambassador in Spain Zorica McCarthy.
The gathering aims to generate national spirit in the midst of the international festival of faith, and give the youth assembled a sense of pride in the youthful strength still present in the Australian Church.
Performances by Gary Pinto who sang the 2008 Sydney World Youth Day theme song Receive the Power were interspersed with prayer, testimonies and addresses by the Ambassador and Australian Bishops.
Special tribute was paid by Archbishop Wilson and Fr Rob Galea to the late Bishop Joe Grech, who had such a love for youth.
Fr Galea shared with the pilgrims a song he had written called God does not make rubbish, a favourite phrase which Bishop Joe liked to use when spending time with young people.
In a dynamic presentation, the Bishops delegate for Youth Bishop Christopher Prowse encouraged the young people to bravely live their faith and to trust in Jesus, “even when the showers are cold or your feet are sore.”
The event was closed with a prayer by Archbishop of Sydney Cardinal George Pell, who thanked the organisers and prayed fervently for the faith of the Church as a result of World Youth Day.
The World Youth Day week will officially open this evening with a Mass of welcome celebrated in the Plaza Cibeles in the centre of Madrid by the Cardinal Archbishop of Madrid Antonio María Rouco Varela.