Thousands Register Late for Youth Day
By Anthony Barich and Catherine Smibert
SYDNEY, Australia, JULY 15, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Generation Y is demonstrating to World Youth Day organizers in Sydney why they weren't called Generation RSVP, says the coordinator of the event. Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney told ZENIT today that thousands of unregistered pilgrims arrived to the host city on the opening day of World Youth Day, providing an extra challenge for the organizers to accommodate the unexpected overflow.Thousands stood in line Tuesday at registration stands in Hyde Park, Circular Quay and Broadway. World Youth Day began today in Sydney, and will culminate on Sunday with an open-air Mass presided over by Benedict XVI at Randwick Racecourse.
Some 500,000 are expected to attend the closing liturgy."This is not Generation RSVP," said the bishop, "this is Generation Y, and they just arrive and decide to register on the spot, and we're getting them in the thousands."He said that over 100,000 international pilgrims have already arrived, and that organizers are confident of achieving their goal of having 100,000 Australian pilgrims, including 40,000 Sydney residents."Some of them we didn't know about; they've been arriving unregistered and we're past maximum capacity, but we're doing everything we can to make sure they get into all the events, get transport passes and accommodation and food," said Bishop Fisher, the youngest bishop in Australia.
24-year-old Sabrina Dias from Mexico was one among those registering late. She said she is in Australia visiting her family, and she "happened to be here at the same time.""It's an opportunity not to be missed," she added.Street party"Look at the streets of Sydney," Bishop Fisher said. "We've never had this before. […] We've never had this many young people full of the faith, of idealism, of enthusiasm for Jesus Christ, his Church and the future of our world."He added that Sydney is the first World Youth Day where that has been a large participation from the Pacific.
In Cologne 2005 there were 100 pilgrims from New Zealand, 10 from Papua New Guinea and less than 100 from the rest of the Pacific.This year there are 4,500 from New Zealand, 2,000 from Papua New Guinea and up to 1,000 from each of Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and other small island nations, the bishop reported.The youth day organizer explained that this was due to the contribution of local parishes and schools to the fairs of the poor Pacific Islands. A contingent from East Timor was also made possible through local fundraising efforts.
Dressed in traditional tapa wraps in colors designed specifically for his parish group, Tonga Rui of Tonga told ZENIT he is excited "at how World Youth Day has been able to unite so many of the Oceanic region."Bishop Fisher added that the indigenous participation attending the youth event will also be "way out of proportion to their population numbers" due to the support from local communities.Aboriginal performers are headlining key events throughout the week, as are those from the oceanic islands.