Tuesday, 15 July 2008


“When we blindly adopt a religion, a political system, a literary dogma, we become automatons. We cease to grow.” – Anaïs Nin

There is quite a to-do in Australia these days with the celebration of World Youth Day, this year hosted by Sydney. It is organised by the Catholic Church and it involves young people between the ages of 16 to 35 years. It is the 23rd World Youth Day and it is to be celebrated between July 15-20. This international gathering of about 150,000 young people in Sydney is meant as a celebration of faith amongst young people from all over the world who will take part in prayer, catechism sessions, informal gatherings, and festival events. The Pope is here in Australia and is spending much of his time in doing the expected things, while also trying to be suitably “hip” by, for example, sending SMS messages to the registrants’ mobile phones.

The purpose of World Youth Day is threefold (and I quote from the official site):

1. Putting Trust in the Young:
World Youth Day is a coming together of young adults from the four corners of the world and a strong reminder of the strength and confidence the young bring to the Church today.

2. Gathering Together:
World Youth Day is not simply a gathering for the young people of the world, but a time to put trust in the world's youth. A calling for the world's youth to come together as one people.

3. Meeting the International World on a Human Level:
It is still a marvel in this the 21st Century to exchange with others and to be a part of an international experience. International events are able to stir much hope but also many fears (increase in fundamentalism, nationalism and other new conflicts. . .) The Church and Christians themselves have a role to play in preventing the development of these fears, and in aiding each person in finding their way and discovering hope.

Unfortunately, the celebrations are already being marred by adverse publicity, immigration scams, traffic gridlock, gloomy statistical data about the lack of faith shown by the young, disastrous media releases bordering on the racist and irresponsible by Sydney’s Catholic Archbishop, Cardinal Pell and a conservative, backward-looking dinosaurian mentality that is still showing how much out of touch with the 21st reality most of the world’s larger churches are. While Cardinal Pell was telling young people that no Western country was producing enough babies to keep the population stable and declaring himself as a climate change sceptic, the Pope was busy apologising to victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and telling the faithful to heed the scientists and do their bit to be “green”.

I am sure great fun will be had by all, and the Youth Day extravaganza will have its full share of pure faith, good intentions, drunken orgies, hits and misses, heady exuberance and wilted great expectations. It will take more than fairground policies to attract the young faithful to an aging church and once the party is over, the 21st century Y-generation will go back to following the dictates of their "fat relentless egos" (Cardinal Pell’s words, once again).

Call me a cynic, if you must, but I am skeptical of such large events and such public professions of faith and religion that is presented to the masses in technicolour, vistavision, Hollywood-style super productions…

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