The World Youth Day Cross has arrived!f irst posted 9 January 2004

 CRAWLEY -first posted 9 January 2004 - 577 words

The World Youth Day Cross was finally handed over to the Catholic youth of England and Wales yesterday, at a service attended by Bishop Ambrose Griffiths, chairman of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales Committee for Young People, and Bishop Kieran Conry, Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, at St Wilfred School in Crawley, Sussex.

Accompanied by three exhausted young Swiss delegates following an overnight drive from Geneva in Switzerland, the Cross and Icon of Mary was passed on to the students of St Wilfred's and youth representatives from the dioceses of Southwark, East Anglia, Clifton and Brentwood in a service that marked the beginning of the Cross's pilgrimage through every diocese of England and Wales.

Afterwards, Bishop Griffiths emphasised the "powerfully symbolic" nature of the Cross being passed around the world by Catholic youth.

He said: "It is a reminder of the love of God for us. The fact that it has been carried around the world and seen by millions of young people who share our faith is a great encouragement that they are not alone in following Christ our Saviour.

"I hope that they will gain confidence from this tremendous experience of a united faith and I hope that this will in turn encourage young people to attend the World Youth Day celebration in Cologne in 2005."

Bishop Conry said: "It's a privilege that Arundel and Brighton is the first diocese to receive the Cross.

"The Holy Father's visit to the UK in 1982 began in Arundel and Brighton and so in a sense this Cross is following in his footsteps of 22 years ago. The Cross was originally supposed to come in to Gatwick, but no airline would take it.

"However, it is even better that it is being received in a school by young people. This pilgrimage is a very powerful way of bringing them together. An important part of their faith experience is about feeling connected. Young people today feel less connected to the Church but draw support from each other. This pilgrimage is a positive experience of Church, hopefully focusing their minds on the national pilgrimage of World Youth Day."

Helen Bardy, director of the Bishops' Conference Catholic Youth Service, said: "It's great to finally have the Cross in England and Wales after months of preparation. We have had an overwhelming response from young people and adults in schools and parishes to be involved in the pilgrimage and there is a great sense of anticipation throughout the country."

Mattia Rusconi, one of the three Swiss delegates, said: "The pilgrimage of the World Youth Day Cross has meant a lot to us. Before I became involved I saw Christmas as simply a time of praying and waiting for Christ's birth. When we received the Cross from the Dutch youth at the beginning of Advent, it was clear that it was no longer a question of passively participating. We had to organise their arrival from Holland and welcome them. That's Christmas. It's about welcoming Christ with open arms. It's a real privilege in turn to present the Cross and Icon to the young people of England and Wales and to be welcomed by them."

The Cross and Icon will be passed on to the diocese of Southwark on Saturday at a service at Southwark Cathedral at 1pm, where it will begin its procession through London to Westminster Cathedral.

Source: CCS

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