(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.