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Preparing for World Youth Day '08

Interview With Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney

ROME, Italy, APRIL 8, 2006 (Zenit) - Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko has called the master plan for the 2008 Sydney World Youth Day a "masterpiece."

The archbishop, president of the Pontifical Council for Laity, approved Tuesday the final project for the World Youth Day, which has been in the works for more than two years.

The team also launched their official organization, ideas and logistics to an international group of over 90 delegates for World Youth Day in a meeting held today in Rome.

We spoke with Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney, coordinator for the event.

Q: Your presentation includes a unique "three-phase approach" to the planning for the event. Could you run through these phases for us?

Bishop Fisher: The first phase is a time of evangelization, catechesis and prayer with the youth leading up to the event itself from now until July 2008.

This is a program for anyone in the world who wants to join in as a way to prepare themselves for Sydney. They can join us through an "E-pilgrimage" and receive a pack of spiritual preparation monthly that will include scriptures, prayer, the life of a saint, testimonies from young people, as well as practical information about World Youth Day in Sydney.

Phase 2 will be, of course, the great week of the World Youth Day in Sydney and the days in the dioceses around Australia before that.

For some youth, their touchdown in Australia won't be directly in Sydney. We'll give them the opportunity to spend some days in the diocese in other parts of the country such as Adelaide or Melbourne and then make a special journey to Sydney from there.

Phase 3 will be from 2008-2028. The third phase is the follow-up phase when the young people return home. We want to be ready to welcome them home to a Church that has its arms wide open and says that we want you to be able to learn more about your faith, to be able to pray, participate, to be able to serve and lead; to be the next generation of our Church in Australia and throughout the world!

Q: How will your program reflect the theme for the World Youth Day: "You will receive power from the Holy Spirit, and you will be my witnesses when the Holy Spirit has come upon you?"

Bishop Fisher: When it comes to witnessing the Holy Spirit, I think it's about an exchange of gifts -- what Australia can offer the youth of the world and what can come of this reciprocity.

Australia represents for some "the ends of the earth," so it's a place that offers young people of the world an opportunity to come and be witnesses to their faith beyond their own surroundings. They come bearing gifts to share -- their enthusiasm and faith that will help evangelize our whole culture.

We, in turn, will offer those young people a place of hospitality, a place of pilgrimage, a place where they will meet the Holy Father and the young people of the world to celebrate and deepen their faith so they may return to wherever they came from with a renewed zeal.

They will find a place of great welcome -- we're a very multicultural society so wherever they're from, they will find people who speak, think and act like them. But they'll also find every other nation represented there, wonderfully united as one country.

Many pilgrims will be coming from countries that are hundreds or thousands of years old and Australia offers them a new land -- our European settlers arrived just over 200 years ago -- with a very ancient aboriginal culture, both of which they will have a chance to encounter.

We are very determined that we are going to offer people a very genuine pilgrimage experience.

Though it's true that we don't have ancient cathedrals with the relics of saints, what we do have is a young culture, a young Church that wants to be a place of living saints. We believe the pilgrims will help make Australia into a true pilgrimage center where they will meet Jesus Christ and where they'll experience his Holy Spirit.

Q: What sense are you getting from people around the world -- what sort of logistical programs are being put together, etc.?

Bishop Fisher: We're certainly trying to get the word out to the young people of the world. We're going to do that especially through the Internet, through briefing national bishops conferences and international youth meetings.

And, the fact is, our world is a very small place. You can get anywhere in the world in a day and that includes to Australia from anywhere in the world. So, it need not seem so "far" to people or so impossible to achieve. I do it regularly!

Q. And what about the cost?

Bishop Fisher: It's also not as impossibly expensive as they might imagine either. We are saying to young Europeans, or to North and ...

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