“Here kitty, kitty”

(Cross-posted from CNS World Youth Day blog)

SYDNEY, Australia — The problem with giving the pope a few days of rest is that news editors still want their reporters covering the pope to write something. Sometimes it’s to write anything.

Monday’s big pope news, then, was the fact that members of Opus Dei, which is hosting the pope’s three-days of rest at the Kenthurst Study Centre outside Sydney, assigned an 11-month old gray kitten named Bella to keep the pope company.

Pope Benedict is known to be fond of cats and his personal secretary, Msgr. Georg Ganswein, even wrote the introduction to a children’s book telling the pope’s life story through the eyes of Chico the Cat.

While the folks who answered the phone at Kenthurst this morning (it’s already Tuesday in Australia) were sworn to secrecy and would not answer any questions related to their very special guest or about the kitten, the World Youth Day media office confirmed that the kitty is in residence.

The Vatican Television Center and the Vatican newspaper provided video and photos from the pope’s first full day at Kenthurst, showing him celebrating Mass, taking a stroll and listening to a special concert of classical music. But Bella the cat was nowhere to be seen.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the papal spokesman, briefed reporters last night on the pope’s day. Asked about Bella, he said, “I know nothing about a cat.”

Now, of course, some photographer is dreaming about approaching the Kenthurst house, camera in hand, and whispering, “Here kitty, kitty.”

Monday’s WYD summary

Over at the CNS World Youth Day blog and on the CNS homepage for WYD stories, you’ll find these highlights:

– There’s both a story and a blog post on the prayer vigil this evening in Sydney’s cathedral devoted to how Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati‘s life can be an example for young people. Another of our special WYD bloggers said teens love Frassati “because he was athletic and basically a stud.” (You can read more about devotion to Frassati in this story from the Turin Olympics two years ago.)

– As readers of these pages know, Sydney is crawling with pilgrims, but Pope Benedict spent his first full day in Australia resting outside the city.

Franciscan Brother Algirdas Malakausakis meets a true-blue Aussie, a young koala, at Featherdale Wildlife Park in Sydney, Australia, July 11. The friar was among a group of 30 Lithuanian World Youth Day pilgrims experiencing an Australian way of life and faith in the Diocese of Parramatta. (CNS/Dan McAloon)

Franciscan Brother Algirdas Malakausakis meets a true-blue Aussie, a young koala, at Featherdale Wildlife Park in Sydney, Australia, July 11. The friar was among a group of 30 Lithuanian World Youth Day pilgrims experiencing an Australian way of life and faith in the Diocese of Parramatta. (CNS/Dan McAloon)

– Anyone familiar with World Youth Day knows that many pilgrims participate beforehand in Days in the Diocese programs hosted by local sees, and we ran a story on one of them to go with the cute picture we posted on our homepage the other day of the brother and the koala (right).

More to come tomorrow, including the opening Mass for World Youth Day.

The beauty of the past

In order to move forward, it is important to know the past. Things in the past can provide us with a wealth of knowledge and inspiration that makes moving forward a little easer, or at least better. It’s something people tend to forget.

Fellow intern Geoffrey Brooke sent me this page from The Catholic Telegraph, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. The Telegraph has rereleased some older pictures, going as far back as 1948. They are really quite interesting, and beautiful.

An intro to Sydney: Pilgrims, pilgrims everywhere

(Cross-posted from CNS World Youth Day blog)

The Vatican press corps spent the morning doing “site visits” in Sydney, touring the Mary McKillop Memorial Chapel, St. Mary’s Cathedral and the adjacent rooms and chapels where various events on Pope Benedict’s schedule will occur.

The World Youth Day cross is seen on the foredeck of a ferry as it nears the end of its Australian journey July 14 in Sydney. The cross, which had been carried thousands of miles across the continent, arrived at its final destination for the start of World Youth Day. (CNS/Reuters)

The World Youth Day cross is seen on the foredeck of a ferry as it nears the end of its Australian journey July 14 in Sydney. The cross, which had been carried thousands of miles across the continent, arrived at its final destination for the start of World Youth Day. (CNS/Reuters)

Everywhere we went there were World Youth Day pilgrims walking, praying, singing, introducing themselves to one another. The day started out cool and cloudy, but the sun is shining brightly now and so are the pilgrims’ smiles.

We went to the tomb of Blessed Mary McKillop, the Australian founder of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart. The World Youth Day guestbook was filling up fast with the names of pilgrims from Australia and New Zealand, but also Ireland, Tahiti, Korea, England, Canada, the Philippines, Lebanon and Malaysia.

As organizers were explaining where the press positions would be during the pope’s visit to the chapel, in walked a youth group from Apple Valley, Calif. They went directly to Blessed McKillop’s tomb to pray.

The small square in front of St. Mary’s Cathedral seems to be a major gathering place for World Youth Day pilgrims. Many were posing in front of the countdown clock that said, “1 days (sic) left.” Inside the crypt, quiet reigned as young people prayed before the Blessed Sacrament. Upstairs others were stopping to pray at the tomb of Blessed Piergiorgio Frassati, the young Italian whose body was flown to Sydney from Turin especially for World Youth Day.

Outside, members of the Neocatechumenal Way from Padoa, Italy, were singing and inviting their peers from around the world to join their circle and dance. Amanda Werely, 17, and a group of her friends from St. Ann’s Parish in Burleson, Texas, arrived to take it all in.

“This is my first World Youth Day and I’m blown away,” Werely said.

Karen, a 30-year-old member of the Diocese of Sacramento’s pilgrimage, also was attending a World Youth Day for the first time. She said her father had already been working to organize a pilgrimage from his parish when he died two years ago. “This is a memorial to him,” she said.

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