Pope Benedict touches down in Sydney - 14 July 2008

 Pope Benedict XVI has touched down in Sydney, following the longest journey in his life on Alitalia flight AZ4000 from Rome, travelling for 19 hours 45 minutes and 16,418 kilometres. This historic visit to Australia is his ninth apostolic visit outside of Italy.

During the flight, Pope Benedict spoke for 20 minutes with journalists.

When asked about the situation of the Church in Australia, Benedict XVI said he was optimistic, explaining: "Now at this historical moment we begin to see that we need God, Australia in its historical configuration is part of the Western world. The West over the past 50 years has seen great success, economic and technological success. But religion has been relegated. God is basically in the hearts of human beings and can never disappear," he said.

The Pope said that while in Australia he intends to work for healing and reconciliation with the victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy there, much as he did when he traveled to the United States in April.

Sexual abuse is "incompatible with the behavior" required of priests, he said. "We have to help the priests to be near to Christ, to learn from Christ," he added. "We will do what is possible to clarify what is the teaching of the Church. We will help in the education and in the preparation to the priesthood, the permanent formation....It is essential for the Church to reconcile, to prevent, to help and to see guilt in this problem."

Speaking about climate change, Benedict XVI said that there was a need to "reawaken our consciences." He asked Catholics to find "a way of living, a style of life that eases the problems caused to the environment."

"I want to give impulse to rediscovering our responsibilities and to finding an ethical way to change our way of life and ways to respond to these great challenges."

The Pope also commented on the decision of the general synod of the Church of England last week to allow the ordination of women bishops. The Holy Father assured his prayers for the participants of the The Lambeth conference scheduled to begin this Wednesday.

Descending from the aircraft at Richmond Royal Australian Air Force Base, at 3pm local time yesterday, the Pope was greeted on the tarmac by the Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, and the Premier of NSW, Morris Iemma amongst other dignitaries.

The Pope was greeted by: Government officials; Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, Archbishop Philip Wilson, President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Archbishop of Adelaide; Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, President of the Pontifical Council of the Laity; Bishop Anthony Fisher OP, WYD08 Coordinator, Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney; Monsignor Josef Clemens, Secretary of the Pontifical Council of the Laity Bishop Kevin Manning, Bishop of Parramatta; Bishop Max Davis, Military Ordinariate.

The Holy Father is accompanied by 72 passengers; 27 Members of the Papal entourage, 43 Vatican Accredited Media Personnel, two assistants (one Assistant of the Director of the Holy See Press Office and one Assistant for Air Transportation).


Benedict XVI will rest for three days at the Opus Dei-run Kenthurst Study Centre, located northwest of Sydney.

He will move to Sydney's cathedral house before embarking on an intense few days of meetings with young people.

The first papal public event will be a welcome ceremony at Sydney's Government House Thursday, after which the Holy Father will visit the Blessed Mary MacKillop Memorial Chapel.

In the afternoon the Pontiff will then board the ship "Sydney 2000" and travel by sea to Barangaroo East Darling Harbor, where the Pontiff will deliver his first address to the youth pilgrims.

The Pope will meet Friday with government leaders, and later participate in an ecumenical meeting in the crypt of St. Mary's Cathedral. He will also meet with some 40 representatives of other religions.

On Saturday he will celebrate Mass with Australian bishops, seminarians and men and women religious novices, and consecrate the new altar, and in the afternoon the Holy Father will preside at the World Youth Day Vigil.

The week long event will culminate with an open-air Mass on July 20 at Randwick Racecourse. Around half a million people are expected to attend.

Source: WYD/VIS

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