One of the things about WYD that I haven't yet mentioned is the welcoming speech from Kevin Rudd, the Prime Minister. In England we all remember the famous remark that a certain politician "doesn't do religion". So what could we expect from a former Catholic (he now practises with his wife at an Anglican church) who has received a lot of criticism from the secularists over WYD? Platitudes? A hollow welcome and a suggestion that WYD represents peace and tolerance just like his own political party? Not at all!
Linda Morris writing in the Sydney Morning Herald commented: "Cardinal Pell always intended that this was one day when secular Sydney would be shaken to is core. God, not Mammon, was the centrepiece of a public display of Christian devotion rarely seen. The faithful sang prayers, bowed their heads and lifted their hearts in collective prayer...".
Meanwhile, here are some comments from John Huxley, also in an article for the Sydney Morning Herald:
"Young and old, black andwhite, austere and flamboyant, they defied easy stereotyping. As 16-year old Canadian Sami Dib, whose ears are pierced with diamond studs and fingers stained with cigarettes, said, 'We're the future of the Church'. Sydney, regarded by some as a hedonistic if not downright sinful city, has not seen anything like it before. No footbal match. No Olympic final. No previous religious leader's visit is believed to have attracted quite so many people. [...] Such a huge, noisy, enthusiastic turnout will surprise some, alarm others. But, Catholic or non-Catholic, believer or non-believer, being there was an undeniably uplifting experience for most, such was the feel-good spirit generated by the Mass and the masses".
Why am I still publishing extracts from the papers? Because, like the Prime Minister's welcome, they should encourage us to take heart. It is possible to defend the faith in an avowedly secularist context. What is required is a little bit of courage. An experience such as WYD breaks down barriers of hostiliy, prejudice and indifference. People who presumed the Church was finished are surprised not just to see her vigour - but also because they quite like what they see!