Written by Sherry
Monday, 14 July 2008 08:24
Another snapshot of the widespread Asian contingent at WYD - and what it means for young people from countries where Catholics are a distinct minority:
For Wiyond, a young Catholic living in Muslim-dominated Indonesia, the World Youth Day festival in Sydney led by Pope Benedict XVI provides a rare chance to celebrate his religion with others.
The 34-year-old is one of more than 100,000 foreign pilgrims who have come to Australia for World Youth Day, many of them from countries in Asia without a strong Catholic tradition.
As he stood on the sidelines of a noisy procession of thousands of pilgrims carrying a cross through Sydney's central business district on Monday, Wiyond said he was grateful for the chance to mix with other young Catholics.
"We really want to meet with all the other youth from around the world and share our faith and to know that we are not alone," he said.
"Sometimes we feel that we are alone to become a Catholic in Indonesia. We are the minority."
Like many pilgrims from Asia, Wiyond is excited about seeing the leader of the Roman Catholic church in the flesh during the six-day event, which culminates in an open-air mass by Benedict on July 20.
"We really hope to see the Pope, and shake hands with the Pope, and kiss the ring," he told AFP.
Thousands of pilgrims from the United States, Italy and Germany have poured into Sydney over recent days, with their numbers strengthened by thousands from New Zealand and Pacific islands such as Papua New Guinea.
The Philippines has provided the largest number of pilgrims from Asia, with 2,500, while 700 have come from Indonesia and 260 from Japan.
World Youth Day organisers refused to comment on the number of pilgrims from China, where the Vatican has long been at odds with Beijing over who controls the booming Catholic church.
But 23-year-old Taiwanese university student Karen Lin said there were many Asian faces among the thousands of pilgrims around Sydney's St Mary's Cathedral and surrounding Hyde Park.
"We've seen the Koreans, and some Japanese and some from China," she said.
The question of young people from mainland China is a very interesting one. Anyone have information about Chinese pilgrims?