A large crowd of people at World Youth Day at Barangaroo, Sydney in July 2008.

Newscaf: World Youth Day 2008

Newscaf: Pope Benedict XVI in Australia for World Youth Day 2008

Pope Benedict XVI visits Australia in 2008
 Adam Blackshaw

Ten years ago Sydney hosted the 23rd World Youth Day, presided over by Pope Benedict XVI. Around half a million young people from 200 countries attended the youth meetings during the week of 15 to 20 July with an estimated one million coming over the weekend to see the pontiff.

These clips are from our Television News and Current Affairs Program (Newscaf), which is 30 years old this year.

Handling the crowds

What could have been a logistical nightmare was managed efficiently by the organisers, with Sydney facing the challenge of moving an additional 500,000 to one million people through its public transport system. This was achieved without incident and the many pilgrims – along with curious Sydneysiders – took the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI.

Huge crowds at World Youth Day, Ten News, 17 July 2008. NFSA title: 797307. Courtesy: Network Ten.

Australia's first saint?

As part of his visit, the Pope visited the tomb of Blessed Mary MacKillop in North Sydney. While he was unable to declare her a saint during his time in Australia, he did make it clear to the faithful that Mary MacKillop would be canonised once the official process had been completed. The news was well received by Catholic Australians. 

Mary MacKillop later became the first Australian to be recognised as a saint by the Catholic Church when she was canonised on 17 October 2010 at the Vatican, the culmination of a process that began in the 1920s.

Pope Benedict XVI visits the tomb of Mary MacKillop, Ten News, 17 July 2008. NFSA title: 797307. Courtesy: Network Ten.

Meeting the Pope

A select group were invited to meet Pope Benedict during his time in Sydney. They included Lauren Huxley, who was subjected to a horrific assault in 2005 that resulted in her spending 23 days on life support. Nine other young people, including a former 'street kid' and reformed prisoner, also received a private audience. The pontiff described them as 'ambassadors of hope', while one of the young people simply said meeting the Pope was 'living the dream'.

Private audience with Pope Benedict XVI , Sky News, 17 July 2008. NFSA title: 763865. Courtesy: Sky News

During his visit, on 19 July, the Pope also issued his first public apology to victims of child sex abuse by Catholic priests.


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Photo credit (main image): 'World Youth Day Celebration at Barangaroo, Sydney, Australia’. Published under Creative Commons 3.0. Photographer: Socrates2008.