More blogging from WYD

At the risk of driving you away from our pages, here is some other coverage and blogging from World Youth Day that may be worth your time:

– The Florida Catholic, which serves most of Florida’s dioceses, has its own set of five bloggers writing from Sydney this week (their biographies are here). Posts so far have included items on experiences with host families in Australia and checking the Great Barrier Reef off the pilgrims’ lists of life goals.

– Another diocesan paper with a blogger in Sydney is The Catholic Sun in Phoenix, which points out that staff writer Ambria Hammel is traveling with a group of Phoenix pilgrims. The paper is putting her posts on its regular blog site,

– And most readers here probably already know about the National Catholic Register’s ongoing blog called since its focus has been on not just this papal trip but on all papal travel this year, including the April visit to the United States and United Nations.

– Also worth checking are the “youth reporters” using palm-sized digital camcorders in a project sponsored by the Web portal MyCatholicVoice. Here’s a fuller explanation from the U.S. bishops’ media relations office, and here’s a link to MyCatholicVoice’s “virtual pilgrimage” to World Youth Day.

“Life without Jesus is like a doughnut…”

Doughnuts. They’re more than circular globs of fried, glazed goodness. (Yum, my mouth’s watering just thinking about it.) They’re a witnessing tool for Rob Evans.

Stephen O’Kane highlights Evans, aka the “Donut Man,” in his story Kid Track Lets Little Children Come to Jesus for the The Georgia Bulletin, newspaper of the Atlanta Archdiocese. The Donut Man was a featured performer at Kid Track, an event for children that was part of last month’s eucharistic congress in Atlanta. Evans has been doing evangelical work with children for over 20 years, but only became a Catholic in 2006.

Evans leads the children, and adults, in singalong Bible songs, stories and games. He rewards them with,  yes that’s right,  doughnuts. But Evans’ tasty moniker didn’t come from his fondness for the tasty treats, but because he lives by the profound mantra that “life without Jesus is like a doughnut – you have a big hole in the middle of your heart.” The popular Evans takes his show across the country and has performances booked through April 2009.

“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.

Bloggers share World Youth Day excitement

As I write this, it’s almost noon on Monday in Sydney, where World Youth Day activities are about to step into high gear. Our bloggers over on the CNS World Youth Day blog have been chronicling the excitement they’ve been feeling and some of the long journeys they’ve had to undertake to get to Sydney. Some highlights:

Anna Weaver, a reporter/photographer for the Hawaii Catholic Herald, has been providing details on some of the American pilgrimage groups stopping in her state on their way to Sydney as well as Hawaiians heading to WYD.

Joanna Lawson, who lives in Perth, Western Australia, admits she had mixed feelings about being a pilgrim in her own country, but later had no problem getting caught up in the excitement in Perth and later in Sydney itself.

Paul Haring, the photographer we sent to Sydney to cover WYD, also saw the excitement during his layover at LAX, spent five hours stuck on the tarmac before his flight to Sydney was canceled (also reported by Tim Drake of the National Catholic Register), then photographed a unique early morning Mass celebrated on an airport ticket counter.

Kris Dmytrenko, a Toronto-based associate producer at Salt + Light Television, Canada’s Catholic network, tells of the irony of running into an acquaintance whose life was changed by the last World Youth Day, in 2005 in Germany, and also writes about meeting more pilgrims on his flight to Sydney.

Emily Anderson, a parish youth ministry director, tell how the virtue of patience was a lesson her charges had to learn on the first leg of their journey.

There’s plenty more at the blog. Make sure you follow it through the end of World Youth Day.

Flying the Friendly Skies

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI flies quite a bit, but he’s not the one steering the aircraft. Some Australian journalists who are here in Rome getting ready for the pope’s flight to their homeland tomorrow were telling my colleague Cindy Wooden they were sure the pope was an expert pilot who regularly flew the papal chopper when he needed to get around town.

It seemed a pretty preposterous assumption, but there it was right here (scroll down to fifth item) saying the German pontiff has a pilot’s license and that he likes to fly the papal helicopter from the Vatican to his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, about 15 miles from Rome.

But this and other Web sites weren’t the only ones saying the pope knew how to fly; New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (who does fly a helicopter) had read a newspaper headline ahead of the pope’s April visit to N.Y. saying just as much. The mayor even asked the pope about it when they met on the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

While it may be true the pope does not have a license to drive a car, he certainly does not have a pilot’s license, Vatican spokesmen confirmed that in New York and again today in Rome. 

Professional pilots fly the papal helicopter and plane and the pope gets to sit back, relax and enjoy the flight.

Papal video message coming, and perhaps other images

(Cross-posted from CNS World Youth Day blog)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI has recorded a video message for the people of Australia, the country’s Catholics and the young people traveling to Sydney for World Youth Day. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, said the video is done, but its broadcast date has not been finalized. Probably, he said, it will air July 13 shortly after the papal plane touches down Down Under.

At a pre-trip briefing for the Vatican press corps yesterday, Father Lombardi also hinted that some video images may be released of the pope taking a stroll or praying at the Opus Dei-run Kenthurst Study Centre outside of Sydney. Pope Benedict will stay at the facility for a few days recovering from jetlag and preparing for his appointments with Catholic youth from around the world. A cameraman from the Vatican Television Center “will be standing by” in case the pope and his aides decide to give the world a peek at how the pope was spending his private time, Father Lombardi said.

The main part of the pope’s Vatican entourage will not be staying at Kenthurst, Father Lombardi said. But they won’t be sitting around their hotel. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, and other top Vatican officials will be treated to “cultural, tourist visits” Monday and Tuesday morning. Their itinerary includes a visit to Parramatta and a visit to an Aboriginal village.

Another curiosity from the briefing: Father Lombardi noted that the July 12-21 trip to Australia, the ninth of Pope Benedict’s pontificate, is his longest in terms both of length and distance covered. After more than 15 hours in the air, the papal plane will land for refueling in Darwin. The stop is scheduled to last 90 minutes. “I’m not sure if the pope will get off the plane. He can if he wants to stretch his legs. He could meet the local bishop or the airport chief,” Father Lombardi said. But nothing formal and no speeches are planned.

And the 43 journalists in the back of the plane — me, included — probably will not be allowed off.

More on Templeton

CNS ran a story on the July 8 death of Sir John Marks Templeton at the age of 95. Over the years CNS has had numerous stories covering individuals who were awarded the Templeton Prize.

The Templeton Prize is awarded annually to an individual who has made major contributions to religion around the world.

The first Templeton Prize was awarded to Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta in 1973.

Here’s a look at some other news from CNS involving the Templeton Prize:

The 2008 Templeton Prize was awarded to Father Michal Heller, a Polish priest-cosmologist.

Chiara Lubich, the founder of the Focolare movement who died in March, received the Templeton Prize in 1977.

Brother Roger Schutz, founder of the Taize community, received the Templeton Prize in 1974. He died in August 2005 after being stabbed in the neck.


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