By Penny Kerr with updates
from David Kerr
The photos here are from the truly wonderful Stations of the Cross held in three locations on Friday.
The biggest group of Solomon Islanders is located at Oak Hill, to the West of Sydney. It is quite cold out there but people have been provided with warm clothing. Unfortunately, lots of youth caught flu and about 50 people were kept isolated there so it would not spread to everyone. This was unfortunate because they missed activities. However, the good news now is that they are all much better.
The group sponsored by the Dominican Sisters is staying a little closer to the city and things are going well. They have been amazed by the huge shops, vast crowds of people (sometimes as many pilgrims as the total population of the Solomon Islands! Sr Teresa has been heard to say "FEARFUL" several times!
Solomon 6 in Pittwater
We thought we would fill you in on the activities of the World Youth Day Pilgrims staying in Pittwater Parish- that is, Rose Kuibata (Moli), Cecilia Tuake (Wagina), Dennis John (Nila), John Sotiava (Sirovanga), Joseph Jio and Cletus (Jnr) Pita from Gizo. This group is part of the Pittwater Parish "Soul Group"
which helps with travel and finding their way around.
The Week of World Youth Day began on Tuesday July 15th. The World Youth Day Cross made its final step of the journey, across Sydney Harbour, to be in place for this opening Mass. Our group travelled by bus into the city, a trip which takes 90 minutes. They attended the Opening Mass which was a huge affair with thousands of Cardinals, Bishop and priests as well as 150,000 people. The venue was so big that large screens were set up so that people could see what was going on. Thousands more could not fit into the main venue at Barangaroo and watched on big screens in other parts of the City.
On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, the morning began at 9am with a catechesis session at Mona Vale Church, very handy for our people who are staying nearby. There are about 300 catechesis sessions running throughout Sydney in many different languages. Many of the Solomon Islands group is staying at Oakhill College at Castle Hill, so they may be having catechesis in Pidgin with Archbishop Adrian Smith. Here at Mona Vale the language is English.
At Bishop Bernard's Church at Avalon, there is a group of Belgian Pilgrims staying at the school and they have their catechesis in French. Once the teaching session is over, the pilgrims have a quick lunch and then get on the bus for the long trip to the city. On Wednesday they went to a session of
"Alpha", a faith- building experience. There were also concerts around the city which they could attend in the evening.
On Thursday the Pope arrived and thousands of people lined the Harbour and the Streets to get a good view. Some people had a very good view, others missed out a bit. The Pope arrived by boat and Martin Padokale was there with him flying the Solomon Islands flag! This was a great honour as only 100 pilgrims from around the world could be on the boat while about 700,000 other people swarmed through the city.
On Thursday night, there were several concerts, including one at the Opera House. I have talked to John who said he really enjoyed this night. He had the chance to show others a traditional dance.
The Stations of the Cross were conducted on Friday. I hope you have a chance to get the footage of this on the web site or somewhere else. It was a most moving event. People gathered in many parts of the City, starting at St Mary's Cathedral, so it was possible to see some part of it as it moved around the city. Again the large screens were set up so that everyone had a chance to see what was going on everywhere else. Itw as a remarkable performance with the actors dressed up as in Jesus' time. The man who was Jesus looked amazing as he was scourged and crucified. The cross he carried was huge and heavy. There were some changes from the Bible. Simon of Cyrene who helped when Jesus fell was an Australian Aboriginal man. The aborigines are our indiginous people and when white people came to Australia, many of them were treated badly. Even today, they are not treated as well as they should be, so this was a very profound part of the Stations. The women wailing for Jesus were also aboriginal women who wail for the dead in a similar way to the Alu people of the Solomons. Jesus and the two thieves were crucified (tied by ropes) to three huge crosses at Darling Harbour, with the Harbour behind them and the setting sun casting rays of orange light across their faces.
On Friday night, our Parish Soul Group was performing at a live concert for Catholic Earthcare Australia at Darling Harbour, and we understand the Gizo group was there to take part. Today the Pilgrimage begins. We haven't spoken to our group but know that they will be part of it, crossing the Harbour Bridge and walking through the city to Randwick. The Harbour Bridge has been closed for the day so that everyone can get there safely.
There will be concerts at Randwick this afternoon to keep the crowd entertained- there are expected to be 180,000 people gathering. The Pope will join them for an all night vigil, culminating with the Papal Mass tomorrow. We have been very lucky with the weather. After a brief shower on Monday morning, the rest of the week has been fine and sunny. It is warm enough in the sun though once the sun sets it gets quite cold, so sleeping outside tonight will be chilly.
Yesterday, amazingly, Joseph saw and spoke with his cousin Blaize from Honiara! It is astonishing for two people to meet in the hundreds of thousands.
There have been a few minor health problems. Dennis was the sickest but recovered in time for the main events. Rose and Joseph had to miss one day resting while they recovered. John has a very painful blister on his foot so watched the Stations here with us yesterday. Bishop Bernard joined us so we had a good group to appreciate it. John will walk in the pilgrimage in flip- flops so he will end up with very cold feet!
We hope this quick account gives you an idea of what is happening. We have given everyone disposable cameras so there should be lots of images coming home!
Best wishes to you all.