Pope officially arrives at WYD08 - 17 July 2008

 Up to 500,000 people thronged the streets and waterways of Sydney to officially welcome the Holy Father to Australia. In his opening speech at the welcoming celebration in Barangaroo, East Darling Habour, Pope Benedict XVI gave a special welcome to the pilgrims from England and Wales, recognising the distinct role that the British, particularly its religious brothers and sisters had played in the history of Australia over recent centuries.

"Today, we think of those pioneering priests, sisters and brothers who came to these shores, and to other parts of the Pacific, from Ireland, France, Britain and elsewhere in Europe. The great majority were young ­ some still in their late teens ­ and when they bade farewell to their parents, brothers and sisters, and friends, they knew they were unlikely ever to return home. Their whole lives were a selfless Christian witness. They became the humble but tenacious builders of so much of the social and spiritual heritage which still today brings goodness, compassion and purpose to these nations. And they went to inspire another generation."

The British pilgrims couldn't contain their excitement about seeing the Holy Father:

"When a few voices exclaimed - "It's the Pope!" - I think that it was only at that point that I realised just how much I was looking forward to seeing him," said Rebecca Coyne from Wales. "I stood up, like thousands of others, and saw his image broadcast on the large screens in front of us. I was amazed that I was actually looking at the smiling face of Pope Benedict XVI! After he arrived, he spoke to us all, he laughed, joked and blessed us. I'm glad that I saw him in the flesh because now he is a real person to me."

Speaking before the opening celebration, David Smeeth-Cardy from East Anglia said that meeting Popes' was a family tradition: "My aunt once received Holy Communion from Pope John Paul II. Other members of my family have also met him. I don't think that I'll get that close (to Pope Benedict XVI), but it will be inspiring to hear him speak."

From 9.30am His Holiness proceeded across Sydney Harbour Bridge to North Sydney where he was joined by 100 guests at Mary MacKillop Chapel. The Holy Father met with the Sisters of Saint Joseph before praying at the tomb of Blessed Mary MacKillop.

Fr Mark said the Papal visit to the tomb was a very special moment for Australians, as Mary MacKillop is Australia's only blessed.

"The Holy Father was very peaceful as he prayed over blessed Mary MacKillop's tomb."

Before commencing the Papal Boat-a-cade to Barangaroo, Pope Benedict sent out his daily text message: "The Holy Spirit is the principal agent of salvation history: let him write your life-history 2! ­ BXVI"

Upon arrival at Rose Bay this afternoon, His Holiness received a welcome from indigenous elders including Uncle Alan Madden, a traditional custodian of the local Gadigal land.

Tens of thousands lined Sydney's foreshore to catch a glimpse of His Holiness as the Papal Boat-a-cade made its way from Rose Bay around to Barangaroo, East Darling Harbour.

Travelling on board the Sydney 2000, Pope Benedict was accompanied by 530 people, including 60 Australian Cardinals and Bishops, the Papal Entourage, 10 indigenous representatives, 160 international pilgrims and 20 young Australians in a cruise around the harbour.

"The route was designed so that as many people as possible could get a good vantage point from the foreshore," said Father Mark.

"His Holiness stood waving in full-view of the crowd on board the vessel. It looked very impressive against the backdrop of our beautiful harbour."

The Papal vessel was closely shadowed by a VIP craft and a media boat while another 10 Captain Cook Cruises passenger boats carrying 1,900 pilgrims followed the flotilla around the harbour.

The Holy Father's boat arrived at Barangaroo at 3.30pm, greeted by an Indigenous Guard of Honour to mark the transition of the care of the Holy Father from traditional custodians to the youth of the world.

His Holiness joined many cardinals and youth from all around the world upon the sanctuary where indigenous and non-indigenous musicians celebrated the arrival, against the backdrop of Sydney Harbour,

Pope Benedict was welcomed by Cardinal Pell and the President of the Australian Catholic Bishop's Conference Archbishop Philip Wilson, before he spoke to the 140,000 pilgrims in attendance at Barangaroo.

Shortly after 5pm Pope Benedict moved to the front of the sanctuary and entered the Popemobile. The vehicle, manufactured by Mercedes Benz, was especially delivered from Italy and carried His Holiness through the Sydney CBD streets where hundreds of thousands people witnessed the procession.

Pope Benedict's big day out concluded at 5.40pm when the Papal Motor-cade reached St Mary's Cathedral House.

Tomorrow Sydney will host the spectacular launch of Stations of the Cross, where the final hours of Jesus' life are played out through CBD streets, beginning at St Mary's Cathedral and concluding at the northern end of Barangaroo.

Source International Media Centre/CCN

Share this story