Posts Tagged ‘day’

Secretary of Justice and Peace Council Comments on Benedict’s Message

By Mercedes De La Torre

ROME, JAN. 10, 2012 ( On the first day of the new year, in which the World Day of Peace was observed, Bishop Mario Toso, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, commented on the Pope’s message for the Day, titled “Educate Young People in Justice and Peace.”

Bishop Toso pointed out that the Holy Father trusts young people, because they show hope and are able to receive God in the midst of human history.

ZENIT spoke with the Salesian bishop, professor of social philosophy, former rector of the Pontifical Salesian University and Consultor for 20 years of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, about Benedict XVI’s message.

ZENIT: Why does Benedict XVI address young people in particular in this 45th Message for the World Day of Peace?

Bishop Toso: Benedict XVI wished to address this message in particular to young people who today live in a world of incessant transformation, in a world that sociologists describe as “liquid”: new projects are begun and are not solidified, so that youth live in a reality that changes constantly, and even those points that seem to be the most solid also seem to change.

In this context of swift changes and a lack of solid points of reference, Benedict XVI addresses young people, seeing them as a part of the human family that has great resources of hope. In fact, young people, especially in the World Youth Day that was held in Madrid, but also in other events that we have learned about in the media, are showing — also in reference to the fall of regimes and the need to erect democratic institutions — a young, fresh intuition, which helps adults to accept the fundamental values we must invest in and which can constitute the foundation of a more just and peaceful society.

ZENIT: Why does the Pope have confidence in young people as builders of peace?

Bishop Toso: Benedict XVI’s confidence in young people is based above all on two motives: the first is that young people, in face of life and the great responsibilities of the human family, believe in the possibility of a profound transformation, of the renewal of institutions, and their enthusiasm can be the engine for positive change in our societies, even becoming witnesses and leaders, enabling adults to question themselves.

The second reason is that Benedict XVI believes in the capacity of young people to intercept God, to receive Him in the midst of human history as the One who can help humanity to come out of the dark tunnel in which it finds itself. In reality, the dark tunnels that cause despair are different, disallowing even the possibility of a more just world. They are tunnels represented by the food crisis, the financial crisis, the crisis of appropriating essential resources, the ecological crisis and, above all, the anthropological, ethical crisis.

ZENIT: How can young people help to create a more fraternal society?

Bishop Toso: As the Message for the World Day of Peace acknowledges, young people not only have the task to be involved in the educational process, but they have a mission — Benedict XVI states clearly — to stimulate, to be an example to adults and to one another.

Young people especially have a youthful and genuine intuition in regard to great values and they make every effort and commit themselves enthusiastically in the small daily things as well as those that are important: respect for the environment, the fight against corruption and illegality, the implementation of justice, and dignified and respectful treatment of persons in the field of the economy, in the field of finance. With their example, they have the possibility of offering models of what could be the construction of a new society, and new human relations based on the values of fraternity, solidarity and mutual gift — values in which young people are particularly sensitive.

It is often said that today’s young people are the first generation that think that their descendants will live in worse conditions of life. However, I sincerely believe that young people of the age of globalization wish and know that they can contribute to the construction of a better, more united and solidary humanity, the humanity that Jesus Christ inaugurated with his Incarnation.


Interview With Father Thomas Rosica

TORONTO, JULY 28, 2007 ( World Youth Day 2002 woke up the Church in Canada, said Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, national director of the event held in Toronto five years ago.

Speaking with ZENIT to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the 17th World Youth Day, Father Rosica commented about what effects the event brought to Canada and the Church.

Father Rosica is the director of the Toronto-based Salt and Light Media Foundation and Catholic Television Network, which he founded in 2003. 

Q: World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto took place five years ago. What do you think has been the most profound effect the event had on the Church in Canada? 

Father Rosica: World Youth Day 2002 was a tremendous catalyst allowing many great things to happen in and to Canada. 

We may choose to speak of World Youth Day as something in the past — that brightened the shadows, monotony and fatigue of our lives at one shining moment in history in 2002. 

Against a world background of terror and fear, economic collapse and ecclesial scandals, World Youth Day presented an alternative vision of compelling beauty. 

World Youth Day 2002 woke up the country and the Church in Canada. 

The Catholic Church was alive and young during those glorious days of July 2002, and the Church continues to be alive and young today. 

World Youth Day 2002 also shifted the plates of the earth in Canada in the area of media relations. Two sections of the Holy Father’s talks remain engraved on my memory. 

First, at the arrival ceremony in Toronto for John Paul II at the beginning of World Youth Day 2002, the Holy Father spoke these prophetic words to government officials and the people of Canada at Pearson International Airport on July 23, 2002: 

“Canadians are heirs to an extraordinarily rich humanism, enriched even more by the blend of many different cultural elements. … 

“In a world of great social and ethical strains, and confusion about the very purpose of life, Canadians have an incomparable treasure to contribute — on condition that they preserve what is deep and good and valid in their own heritage.” 

Then on Saturday evening, July 27, 2002, on the tarmac of a former military air base in Toronto, Downsview Park, John Paul II spoke these thought-provoking words to the crowd of more than 600,000 young people gathered at the great vigil of World Youth Day 2002: 

“The question that arises is dramatic: On what foundations must we build the new historical era that is emerging from the great transformations of the 20th century? 

“Is it enough to rely on the technological revolution now taking place, which seems to respond only to criteria of productivity and efficiency, without reference to the individual’s spiritual dimension or to any universally shared ethical values? 

“Is it right to be content with provisional answers to the ultimate questions, and to abandon life to the impulses of instinct, to short-lived sensations or passing fads?” 

And what happened in our country over the past five years? One of the most serious crises of our times is the crisis of marriage and family life. 

Canadians have to reflect carefully on the social consequences involved in the redefinition of marriage, examining all that is entailed if society no longer gives a privileged place and fundamental value to the lifelong union of a man and a woman in marriage. 

As the keystone of society, the family is the most favorable environment in which to welcome children. 

I will never forget the sight of John Paul II descending the stairs of the plane that brought him to Toronto, and ascending the stairs of the plane that would take him to Guatemala at the end of our World Youth Day in Toronto. 

John Paul II taught us in the twilight of his pontificate that everyone must suffer, even the Vicar of Christ. Rather than hide his infirmities, as most public figures do, he let the whole world see what he went through. 

In a youth-obsessed culture in which people are constantly urged to fight or deny the ravages of time, age, disease, he reminded us that aging and suffering are a natural part of being human. 

Where the old and infirm are so easily put in nursing homes and often forgotten, the Pope was a timely and powerful reminder that our parents and grandparents, the sick, the handicapped and the dying have great value. 

Our Canadian reality is truly based on a transcendent vision of life based on Christian revelation that has made us a free, democratic and caring society, recognized throughout the world as a champion of human rights and human dignity. 

We will only continue to offer this treasure to humanity and history if we preserve what is deep and good and valid in our own heritage. 

We must uphold the dignity of all human life, from its earliest moments to its final moments of natural death. And we must celebrate the dignity and sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman, as well as fostering and loving family life. 

Q: You attribute the founding of Salt and Light Television to World Youth Day. Can you explain more about your network and how it was the direct result of that event? 

Father Rosica: Canada needed this television medium more than we know. 

Starting up a television network anywhere is fraught with challenges, and in Canada this is compounded by the country’s size, distances, languages and cultures. 

But God was with us from the beginning of this great adventure, just as he was with us through the preparation and execution of World Youth Day 2002. 

I learned most of what I am doing here at Salt and Light Television from John Paul II. He was a brilliant teacher and model of goodness and humanity, a wise communicator and a true “Pontifex Massmediaticus.” 

Salt and Light Television was born on the wings of World Youth Day 2002, drawn from Matthew 5:13-14 — “You Are the Salt of the Earth and Light of the World” was the theme for World Youth Day 2002. 

The Catholic television project is clearly a tribute to and a legacy of John Paul II, and World Youth Day 2002 was the wind beneath our wings. 

There could be no better way to carry on the legacy of World Youth Day 2002 than through Canada’s first national Catholic television network that bears the imprint and tradition of World Youth Days. 

The television network came about through the generosity of an Italian Canadian family that owns the largest private print and media company in the country, St. Joseph Media. 

Its founder, Gaetano Gagliano, now 90 years old, was a disciple and friend of Blessed Giacomo Alberione. Gagliano views Salt and Light as the crown of his long career in the print, media and communications industry. 

The Gaglianos provided the seed money of $15 million to get this project off the ground four years ago. 

Initially available only in the Toronto area, the network is now carried by cable and satellite television services that cover Canada coast to coast. 

Its programs — in English, French, some Italian and, most recently, shows in Mandarin and Cantonese — are available to nearly a half-million Canadian homes, primarily as a low-cost pay-cable channel. 

A limited amount of Salt and Light programming also can be seen in the United States. U.S. residents can sample Salt and Light programming on our Web site, which offers promotional clips of all current shows as well as streaming video. 

Salt and Light documentaries appear periodically on the Eternal Word Television Network. Salt and Light also has entered a programming exchange with Boston Catholic Television Network, which is available in various parts of the East Coast of the United States. 

Recently has been announced the launch of H2O News, a new multilingual television service developed in cooperation with several Vatican agencies.

We are thrilled to have been invited by H20 to provide the English component of H2O, as well as assisting with the French and eventually the Chinese services. This will certainly help us to enhance our news dimension and thrust us on a global stage. 

Q: Staffed by young people, most of whom participated in some way in World Youth Day, what do you think is the unique contribution Salt and Light offers television viewers? 

Father Rosica: First and foremost one of the great contributions of Salt and Light Catholic Television Network is the unique manner in which young Catholics have assumed leadership roles in our evangelization efforts. 

One clearly gets the impression that the Church is “alive and young” at Salt and Light. 

Second is our commitment to offer Canadian society a message of hope, and an invitation to draw closer to Christ and the Church through our programming. 

In many ways, Canada is a new mission territory, and the urgent pastoral needs for education in faith and spirituality, history and Church teachings are so vast and can never be fulfilled by one group or agency. 

Everything we do at the Salt and Light Catholic Television Network revolves around the five pillars of the Salt and Light Television network: 1) prayer, devotion and meditation; 2) multilingual Catholic liturgy, Vatican events and ceremonies; 3) learning and faith development for all ages; 4) stories of Catholic action and social justice throughout Canada and around the globe; 5) stories of our Catholic communities, information and context. 

Salt and Light Television network also works closely with the major television networks in Canada to assist in the background material and education about Catholic matters. 

This was clearly evident in 2005 during the transition in the papacy. These efforts have built badly needed bridges with the secular media, and continue the legacy of World Youth Day 2002. 

Q: Other than the network, have you seen tangible examples of young lives changed by World Youth Day? And what about the not-so-young you encounter? 

Father Rosica: One of the most significant aspects and fruits of World Youth Days is that young people have rediscovered their bishops and priests, and bishops and priests have rediscovered their young people. 

I recall John Paul II stating on several occasions that World Youth Days exists not only for the conversion of young people and the societies in which they live, but also for the conversion of their bishops and priests. There is much truth in these words. 

Canada was particularly blessed to have many bishops who truly believe in World Youth Day as a powerful instrument of evangelization. 

Through World Youth Days, John Paul II unleashed something totally new and unthinkable some 25 years ago! 

We have felt the effects of World Youth Day 2002 throughout the vast Canadian landscape over the past five years, from the dynamic Youth Ministry Program in the Archdiocese of Vancouver, to the powerful Scriptural “Lectio Divina” evenings with the young people of Edmonton, Alberta. 

Over these past five years the Cathedral of Kingston, Ontario, came alive with catechesis sessions for young people and many older ones as well! 

There have been revitalized youth ministry programs in the Ontario Dioceses of St. Catharines, London, Toronto, and Cornwall. 

We cannot help but be grateful to God, giving thanks for the renewed energies among the young people of the Archdiocese of Montreal, Quebec. 

In Atlantic Canada there has been a veritable explosion of youth activities in Halifax, and World Youth Day inspired the birth of the John Paul II Media Center in Halifax, a creative media project led by young people. 

In Quebec City, birthplace of the Church in North America, the seeds of and winds of World Youth Day 2002 have empowered young people and the Quebec Church to prepare for the Eucharistic Congress in June 2008. 

The energy of World Youth Day has swept across Canada through powerful, Gospel-rooted movements like Catholic Christian Outreach, now present on many university campuses of the country. National Evangelization Teams Ministries continues to flourish with the World Youth Day 2002 spirit. 

The phenomenon of World Youth Day has become a powerful seedbed for vocations to the priesthood, consecrated life, marriage and lay ecclesial ministries. 

Whether it is because those who have already sensed a call choose to attend World Youth Day out of their strong faith life, or because World Youth Day awakens young adults for the first time to the special call of God, World Youth Day can be a moment of life-changing discernment. 

On June 29, as I sat in St. Peter’s Basilica and watched the scene of Benedict XVI placing the pallium on the shoulders of five new Canadian archbishops, I quietly thanked God that each of these pastors and leaders had already taken to heart the gift of World Youth Day 2002 and have built so well on its foundation. 

And many of the episcopal appointments in Canada over the past five years have manifested that being a bishop today in the Church means that one has a special mission to young people. 

Q: Canada once had a thriving Catholic culture. Have you seen a return to the participation in the Church, sacraments, etc., in the years following World Youth Day? 

Father Rosica: World Youth Days offer no panacea or quick fix to the problems and challenges of our times. Rather, they offer a new framework and new lenses through which we look at the Church and the world, and build our future. 

One thing was clear after World Youth Day 2002: We realized that we have much work to do in reaching out to young adults across this vast land. 

July 2002 was for us not an end or accomplishment of some feat; it was rather beginning of a new adventure of faith and hope for the entire Canadian Church. 

At our World Youth Day 2002 in Canada, John Paul II issued a clarion call to commitment to the entire Church in Canada. 

To his young friends he said: “Many and enticing are the voices that call out to you from all sides: many of these voices speak to you of a joy that can be had with money, success, and power. Mostly they propose a joy that comes with the superficial and fleeting pleasure of the senses.” 

The alternative call was Jesus’ cry: “He calls you to be the salt and light of the world, to live in justice, to become instruments of love and peace.” The choice was stark, self-denying, life-defining, and irrevocable. 

It was between, “good and evil, between light and darkness, between life and death.” 

There were no shortcuts or compromises for John Paul II, only clarity. And that is what young people are seeking today, not quick answers but Gospel clarity. 

It is incumbent on the Church to offer solid opportunities for youth and young adult ministry that contain solid content, vision, community and hope. 

Many people have commented to me that World Youth Day 2002 taught them to wear biblical lenses in order to understand what July 2002 was all about for the Church in Canada. 

On a very personal note, as I remember the great event of World Youth Day 2002, and allow it to take on its true dimensions — one image seems to dominate: that of the rather violent and ferocious wind and storm that rocked Downsview Park on Sunday morning, July 28, 2002. 

It was for me and for many the wind of Pentecost that we read about in the New Testament. 

And yet, in the midst of the howling wind and violent storm, the nations of the earth — at least 172 of them huddled together in that field — understood one another as they gathered around the successor of Peter on that July morning five years ago. 

This was the wind that had led the World Youth Day Cross from sea to sea to sea, across Canada “a mari usque ad mare.” That summer and that particular morning of July 28, 2002, I believe that the Church in Canada was born again on the shores of Lake Ontario. 

Canada is often described on the international scene as being one of the most politically correct or tolerant societies in the world. 

Some take great pride in these words applied to our country. Others, including myself, do not necessarily see this description as something terribly positive. 

There is nothing politically correct about preaching and living the Gospel, about being salt and light in a culture that has lost the flavor of the Gospel and tried to extinguish the light of Christ. 

In fact, the Gospel message is at times completely incorrect in the eyes and ways of the world! The Gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed with boldness and with courage — and that is one of the great lessons of World Youth Day 2002. 

A boldness that does not overpower, that is not rude, that does not bully, that is never disrespectful, that never shows off or flaunts gifts that one has received — but where the Spirit has been so lavishly poured out upon us as individuals and as a faith community, the Church has an obligation to announce and to proclaim Jesus Christ boldly, unapologetically and unabashedly — with great joy. 

Earlier this month while visiting Rome, I spent several long moments in the crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica, at the grave of John Paul II, the great dreamer and father of World Youth Days. 

Every day I ask the Servant of God Pope John Paul II to pray for us and intercede for us, and especially for the young people who found in him a father, a grandfather, a teacher and a demanding friend who loved them. 

May those same young people find in the Church in Canada a rock, a shelter, a harbor, a home, and a possible lifetime of service in the Church today — a Church that is “alive and young,” as Benedict XVI said at the inauguration of his Petrine Ministry in 2005.

Melbourne Prepares the Way for Sydney 2008

ROME, JULY 12, 2007 ( In just about one year, 5 million of the world’s youth will gather Down Under to celebrate World Youth Day 2008.

While Sydney, Australia, will be home for a week to the millions who will come together to meet Benedict XVI, the Diocese of Melbourne, to the south of Sydney, will also host thousands in the days prior to the main events.

Tim Davis is one of the project officers for Days in the Diocese, a series of programs and events for the quarter of a million young Catholics from around the world who will stop in Melbourne on their way to Sydney.

Here in Rome last week for another round of preparatory meetings, Davis described what is in store for Catholic youth.

“One of best aspects of Days in the Diocese will be the opportunity for people from different cultures to get to know the day to day experience of people here,” Davis said. “We often think the mundane is boring, but for others it can be interesting, and helps people understand the faith life of people here, how it is developed and sustained.

“This will be an opportunity for others to see the living Church in action.”

In addition to being home to the largest diocese in Australia, Davis said that Melbourne is known for its hospitality and is accustomed to hosting large crowds for sporting events, such as the Grand Prix and football matches.

“Victoria is an event state, and being the city that it is, Melbourne is proud and loves providing hospitality,” he said.

To cut costs for young people who cannot afford to travel, many businesses and individuals have made generous offers of support. The state is also supporting the World Youth Day effort by absorbing some of the cost of logistical support, allowing the Church to concentrate on programs and people.

As much as most Australians are used to large numbers of visitors for special events, Davis said the World Youth Day crowd promises to be different from most groups Melbourne is accustomed to hosting.

“When the streets are filled with young people who are full of joy and excited about their faith, others take note,” Davis said.

He added, “We seem to lose that demographic of young people between the ages of 15 or 16; we are hoping that this event or gathering will be a stimulus, especially when they see young people excited about their faith.”

Davis said families in parishes and schools throughout the diocese are already preparing to accommodate pilgrims from all over the world.

Some, he said, have decided to host groups from particular parts of the world such as North Korea, in order to allow international communities to come to know each other.

For example, he said, Nazareth College in Victoria will host a group of students from the Holy Land.

The most important thing will be the sharing of the same faith among people from different cultures: “People from different communities will come together for prayer or Mass, and this will be a powerful way for people from different parts of the world to know each other.”

Beyond prayer, he said, there will be opportunities for different activities. The diocese will host cultural events and musical festivals, as well as speakers and pilgrimages.

“We don’t have the same religious history that Europe holds. But we want to share our own pioneering and missionary Christian faith, and how far we have come in 2,000 years,” Davis said.

In addition to dynamic leaders and role models such as Mary Ann Glendon, president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, and Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez, archbishop of Tegucigalpa, the diocese will host pilgrimages in the footsteps of Australia’s first blessed, Mary Mackillop, beatified by John Paul II in 1995, and to the Cistercian Tarrawarra Abbey in Victoria.

Davis said the momentum for the event is building gradually. “It’s a slow-moving steam roller. People who don’t know what to expect will suddenly see the streets filled with faith-filled young people.”

Franciscan Friar Father Stan Fortuna, a leading musical artist, has already toured Australia to give young people a small sample of what they can expect a year from now.

“He worked hard when he was here. He gave concerts in every major city and, in the two days I was with him, did about a dozen interviews,” Davis said.

As a former Australian rules football star and teacher in a program for children with behavioral and emotional difficulties, Davis said he jumped at the opportunity to work for World Youth Day.

“I have always wanted to be involved in World Youth Day,” Davis said. “For me personally, the most interesting part of this has been the people I have met from all corners of the earth. To see the universal Church has been very moving.”

* * *

Under Mary’s Protection

Just beyond St. Peter’s Square down the Via della Conciliazione looms the beautiful white facade of the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Traspontina.

Here every year large numbers of the Roman faithful gather to thank Our Lady of Mount Carmel with a special novena in preparation for her feast, July 16.

Beginning July 7, a different cardinal every day preaches about Our Lady at an evening Mass.

In a homily last Sunday, Cardinal William Levada, prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, focused on Mary’s role in welcoming the Word of God into the world.

“The Evangelist Luke places the Gospel manifestation of the Word of God in the context of the mystery of Mary,” he said. “So much so, that Mary becomes the ‘instrument’ by which God rescues man from the slavery of sin, and brings him into the intimacy of communion with himself.”

In the same way, he continued, Mary even today reveals the glory of God’s presence among us. Moreover, he said that we enjoy her special patronage when we are consecrated to her.

Carmelite pastor, Father Piero Leta, explained that this aspect of devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel is central to the identity of all Carmelites.

“I am a son of Mary,” he said. “She is the patron and protector of all Carmelites in a unique way.”

Father Leta said the history of the Carmelite order is unique, and their identity is centered on the patronage of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, who appeared to St. Simon Stock in the 13th century during a time of turmoil among the Carmelites.

“As an order, we are unique in that we have no one founder,” Father Leta said.

For centuries, he explained, Carmelites lived as monks on Mount Carmel, where Elijah met God. The Carmelite tradition was established by those who sought to live apart from the world, to find God in the silence of a desert retreat.

During the time of the Crusades, the Carmelites fled to Rome, where they were suddenly thrust into the bustling life of a busy city. Without a founder, and in completely new surroundings, the order suffered an identity crisis.

“The Holy See wanted to suppress us around the year 1250, because we did not have a founder that we could identify, as other orders do. We had simply always followed the desert tradition of Elijah and were dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel,” he explained.

Facing suppression, the Carmelites prayed fervently to Our Lady of Mount Carmel whose providence had never failed. She appeared to Carmelite Friar St. Simon Stock in England with the scapular, a sure sign of her protection and preservation.

For this reason, Father Leta said the origin of the devotion is directly linked to the brown scapular of Carmel: “The scapular is a sign of our consecration to Mary as our mother and is a sign of her protection of us. We belong to her, and everyone who wears this scapular as a sign of consecration is identified as her son or daughter.”

Since that time, and renewed again by the 16th-century reform of St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, the entire Carmelite family, which includes the discalced and the Order of Carmelites, has flourished in many places throughout the world, Father Leta said.

The widespread devotion of the faithful who wear the brown scapular as a sign of consecration to Our Lady, he said, is a special gift for all that was entrusted to the Carmelites.

Moreover, Father Leta said the Traspontina church has been a privileged place for this devotion since the 16th century when it was placed under the care of the Carmelites after the sack of Rome.

The church itself is a treasury of art and architecture depicting history of the Carmelite order. Beginning with the altar, which depicts the prophets Elijah and Elisha on Mount Carmel, visitors can trace the origins and growth of the Carmelites, and the elements of the Carmelite charism that set it apart as a “desert oasis.”

Father Leta explained that Mount Carmel was a garden, an oasis of beauty and peace in the Holy Land.

“Our Lady is always adorned with the Flos Carmeli, the flowers of Carmel,” he said.

The novena will end Sunday, when the massive statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel will be carried down a main side street, Borgho Pio, and through the rest of the neighborhood.

Churches Face Challenge in Postmodern Culture

By Father John Flynn, L.C.

ROME, JULY 8, 2007 ( With just a year to go before World Youth Day takes place in Sydney, data on religion from the 2006 national census in Australia reveals several challenges facing the Church.

The June 27 press release from the Australian Bureau of Statistics explained that Christianity remains the dominant religion in the country. Since the 1996 census the number of people reporting that they are Christian grew from around 12.6 million to 12.7 million. This is, however, a significant fall in terms of a proportion of the total population, from 71% to 64%.

The Catholic Church continues to be the largest Christian group in Australia. Since 1996 the number of Australians affiliated with the Catholic Church grew by 7% to 5.1 million. Nevertheless, this growth was not enough to keep the proportion of Catholics from declining as a proportion of the country’s overall population, from 27% in 1996 to 25.8% by 2006.

The Anglican Church is the second-largest group, accounting for 19% of the population. Their numbers are in decline with a 5% fall over the decade between the census surveys of 1996 to 2006. The fastest-growing Christian denomination was Pentecostal, increasing by 26%, to around 220,000 members.

Australia’s three most common non-Christian religious affiliations were Buddhism (2.1%), Islam (1.7%) and Hinduism (0.7%). Their numbers are growing strongly, with Hinduism more than doubling from 1996 to 2006, to 150,000. The numbers of Buddhists doubled in the ten-year period.

The number of nonbelievers also continues to grow. Since 1996, the number who stated they had no religion increased from 2.9 million to 3.7 million — boosting their proportion from 16.6% to 18.7% over the period 1996-2006.

New South Wales, whose capital Sydney will host World Youth Day, had the smallest proportion — 14% — of any of the nation’s main cities not affiliated with any religion. It is also the state with the highest proportion of Catholics, at 28.2% of the population.

Pentecostal boom

Pentecostals are also strong in New South Wales. From a small base, their numbers grew by no less than 48% in the state over the decade leading up to 2006, reported the Sydney Morning Herald on June 28. Among other groups Sydney is home to the Pentecostal Hillsong Church, which claims 19,000 members.

Its pastor, Brett Macpherson, commented that the number of Pentecostals was in all likelihood even greater than the census figures indicated, as some would have just ticked the more generic Christian box on the form. His comments came in an article on the census data published by the Australian newspaper June 28.

The newspaper also published an analysis by Bernard Salt of the situation regarding young people and religion. He commented that the proportion of believers aged 20-35 contracted by no less than 5% between 2001 and 2006. The latest census data, he added, suggest that people in this age group are much less inclined to hold traditional beliefs than were their age counterparts in the 1980s.

One interesting initiative to put young people in greater contact with religion was the launch of a national program to fund chaplains in schools. The National School Chaplaincy Program was launched by Prime Minister John Howard last October.

The program is voluntary and provides annual funding of up to 20,000 Australian dollars ($17,176) a year for both government and nongovernmental schools, according to a presentation of the scheme on the Web site of the federal government’s Department of Education, Science and Training. The government will provide up to 30 million Australian dollars ($25.7 million) a year for the next three years.

Education Minister Julie Bishop said that more than 1,500 applications were lodged around the country — around 15% of Australian schools, reported The Age newspaper May 30. After reviewing the applications, Prime Minister Howard announced that the government allocated funding to 1,392 schools for the first round of grants, reported The Age on June 27. Moreover, due to the high demand, he said that an extra 25 million Australian dollars ($21.4 million) in funds would be made available for the three-year program.

A reawakening

There is a reawakening of interest in religion and spirituality in Australia according to a book published last year by Monash University academic, Gary Bouma. In “Australian Soul,” he notes that Australia is a typical example of a secular, postmodern and post-Christian society. This does not mean, however, that it is irreligious, he argues.

Compared to the 1960s and 1970s, when secularism seemed triumphant, Bouma detects much more interest these days in religion and spirituality. Nevertheless, this is both good and bad news for the traditional churches, because much of this resurgence in religion is often not directed within the formal structures offered by established religion.

Studies of attendance at Catholic and Protestant churches, for example, show that regular churchgoers tend to be older and more likely to be female. One study revealed that the traditional Protestant congregations lost nearly half of those who were raised as young people in these churches.

Furthermore, the traditional predominance of Christianity is under challenge due to a burgeoning of other faiths, in part due to immigration, in part due to a growing desire for religious experimentation. Thus, not only have numbers of Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims risen, but also those who declare themselves followers of New Age type spiritualities or even forms of paganism is on the increase.

A closer look at the situation of the Catholic Church came in another book published last year: “Lost!: Australia’s Catholics Today,” by Michael Gilchrist. The Australian experience after the Second Vatican Council was similar to that of many other Western countries, he commented, with severe inroads made due to the forces of secularism and relativism.

Moreover, declining numbers of priests and a severe decline in many of the religious orders, who staffed the Church’s schools, has notably weakened both parishes and Catholic education. Gilchrist also devoted considerable space in his book to describing the theological and liturgical experimentation that led to a marked dilution in Catholic doctrine.

Catholic renewal

Gilchrist suggested a number of steps to improve the state of the Church in Australia. These ranged from recommending strong leadership by the bishops, to renewing the Catholic identity of the Church’s schools and revitalizing devotion and liturgical life.

He also urged that efforts continue to promote vocations and ensure good formation in seminaries. Over the last decade or so substantial progress was made in this area and the seminaries that have undergone reforms are seeing a steady increase in numbers.

Even though the task ahead is difficult, Archbishop Philip Wilson, president of the Australian bishops’ conference is hopeful. In a speech given this April at a conference for Church administrators he declared certain optimism for the future of the Church. This is based, he explained, both on a conviction of God’s faithfulness, and also because he believes that there is openness in Western culture to receive the Gospel message.

Transmitting this message to today’s world also requires a sustained effort on our parts, he added. In part we can achieve this through living “faithful, vibrant, intelligent Christian lives,” Archbishop Wilson commented. Being able to do this will require a serious religious and moral formation.

To achieve this, the archbishop noted the importance not only of educating young people through the Catholic schools, but also of forming adults in their faith. Not easy tasks, but essential ones to ensure a healthy future for the Church.

“Spend a Weekly Holy Hour of Power With Christ”

SYDNEY, Australia, JULY 28, 2007 ( Here is the text of Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Fisher’s July 20 address at the “One Year to World Youth Day Celebrations.”

Bishop Fisher is the coordinator of World Youth Day 2008, which will be held in Sydney next July.

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Address at the One Year to World Youth Day Celebrations

St Patrick’s Church Hill 
[After the playing of Benedict XVI’s General Audience Message of July 4, 2007]

By Most Rev. Anthony Fisher OP
Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney

One year to go! One year from today the Holy Father and half a million or so young people from around the world, the nation and the city — and some old guys like me — will celebrate the 23rd World Youth Day here in Sydney and offer the greatest Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the history of our country.

The first pilgrim has already arrived for that Mass: a simple wooden cross given to the Youth of the World by Pope John Paul II in 1984. The Young People’s Cross is already making an extraordinary impact as it makes its pilgrimage around Australia, just as it did over the past two decades as it travelled around the world on its way to Sydney. It will complete its journey among us by standing proud in the sanctuary for our Papal Mass at Randwick.

When the cross arrived at the start of this month it brought a friend, an icon of Our Lady and the Child Jesus. Together they are reminders of the Young People’s God: the God who took flesh for us as a baby and lived all his life with us in the World Youth Day demographic of 16 to 35 or even younger. That life was cut short on a simple wooden cross, in solidarity with all those who suffer and for the salvation of the world. But that the cross is now empty as it makes its journey around Australia is a sign of our faith that the young man-God rose again and our hope that the bright promise of immortality is held out to every person whose life is cut short, indeed for every person united to Christ.

The Young People’s God died upon the Young People’s Cross to bring salvation to the world. But before he returned to the Father, he promised us one last gift, the Holy Spirit, to unite us as one people under God and to give us the power to be witnesses to him. That Spirit-filled people of faith and testimony, of hope and witness, of love and action, is the Young People’s Church, and like the Young People’s Cross it is huge, it is international, and it has arms wide open for every one.

Tonight is a very special night for the Young People’s Church here in Sydney and in Australia. Tonight we gather at St. Patrick’s Church Hill, the oldest shrine in our land. In the Davis home on this land the Blessed Sacrament was reserved in a pyx after the only priest, Father Jeremiah O’Flynn, was deported. Robbed of priest and sacraments, the laity kept the Church alive in the new colony by gathering regularly for prayer in the presence of the Sacrament, praying the Rosary and rehearsing their Catechism. Here the Blessed Sacrament remained reserved until the chaplain of a French ship passing through Sydney came here to consume it and offer the Holy Sacrifice anew. A year later the people’s prayers were answered and Australia was allowed to have priests and Mass regularly. But for a time, at least, it was ordinary lay faithful, including convicts or ex-cons, many of them young, who kept alive the flame of faith by praying in the presence of our Eucharistic Lord.

What better place, then, to launch our World Youth Day Eucharistic Adoration program for Australia? From tonight we ask every parish, school, university and other chaplaincy to hold a “Holy Hour of Power” each week in the lead up to WYD. For those that already have such an hour, we challenge them to increase their time and fervor in adoration. This will allow us an intimate encounter with Jesus Christ as we pray with and for all our young people, for WYD, and for the future of our Church and country.

Benedict XVI just reminded us that WYD is “much more than an event. It is a time of deep spiritual renewal. … Young pilgrims are filled with the desire to pray … to be nourished … to be transformed by the Holy Spirit, who illuminates the wonder of the human soul and shows the way to be the image and instrument of the love which flows from Christ.” We must get ready now to be renewed, nourished, transformed, illuminated: Prepare now to be images and instruments of God’s love, witnesses to Jesus Christ in this new millennium!

So excited is the Pope about coming to “WYD-SYD” that he has already made another speech about it since the one we just saw which he recorded two weeks ago! Only this week he recalled the theme of our WYD: “You Will Receive Power When the Holy Spirit Has Come Upon You, and You Will Be My Witnesses” (Acts 1:8) He then said “I ask you, my dear young people, to reflect on this theme in the coming months in order to prepare yourselves for the great event that will take place in Sydney, Australia, in a year’s time, precisely in these July days.” Well, how better to reflect, how better to prepare, than by joining those first disciples with all their doubts and confusions, their awe and excitement, as they gathered in prayer with Mary in the Upper Room and awaited the Spirit of Pentecost?

This is our time to do the same. It’s your turn to spend a weekly Holy Hour of Power with Christ and Mary and the saints, awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit at WYD. It will give you the quiet time, the thinking time, the praying time, the emptying-your-head time, the pouring-out-your-heart time, that you need. It will give you the encouragement and inspiration and support that you need to go out to all the world, and to build a new civilization of justice, peace and reconciliation, of truth, life and love. If you would like to receive the sacrament of penance and reconciliation, there are priests hearing confessions both upstairs here in the church and downstairs in the crypt; after benediction, confession will continue to be available up here in the Church; feel free to move to the back of the church during adoration if you would like to receive this wonderful gift of “God the Father of mercies who has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins” (Formula of Absolution).

In our video tonight Benedict XVI talked about the “sense of awe and eager anticipation” he felt — we feel — as he and we make our preparations for WYD. He offered his “heartfelt thanks” to all those working so “very hard to ensure an exceptional experience for us all”. Again this week he said that “The Christian communities of that beloved nation [Australia] are working hard to welcome you and I am grateful to them for the efforts they are making to organize it.” When I spoke to the Holy Father about all this recently, he told me that mine is a very big job. Coming from him, that was quite a statement! I told him and I want all of you to know that we have a team of generous, professional, faithful people in the WYD office, in the diocese and beyond, working very hard for WYD. They need your prayers too.

One year to go and tonight we launch not only a year of prayer but also individual registration for World Youth Day. Now the names and details of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims, our new friends, will start to flow in! The WYD Cross and Icon have already begun their pilgrimage — our pilgrimage — to ‘WYD08’. Tonight Benedict XVI is registered as Pilgrim No. 1. You will be not far behind him on the list. Help extend the arms of the Young People’s Church to all the world. I challenge you, each one of you here tonight, to promise God and yourself, that every week from now until next July, you will spend an hour in prayer before Our Lord to pray for the efforts of the WYD organizers, for your generation, for your Church and your world. Be from tonight, for the year ahead and beyond, “images and instruments” of the Young People’s God!