Pope books harbour cruise for Australia trip
Sydney is taking its cue from the German city of Cologne and putting Pope Benedict XVI aboard a boat for his grand entrance to Australia's largest city for World Youth Day in July. ( dpa )
"It's going to be a spectacular event and one that will show up on the highlights on television at the end of the year," World Youth Day (WYD) spokesman Jim Hanna said Wednesday. "We're expecting up to 150,000 people to greet him at the wharf."
Cologne was the host of the last WYD pilgrimage in 2005 and the pope sailed on the Rhine during his visit.
The boat commissioned for carrying the pope on Sydney Harbour is the 63-metre Sydney 2000, which transported heads of state and other dignitaries during the Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000.
Organizers are keen to bring some Olympic flair to WYD and the pope's July 17 cruise aboard a vessel designated a popeboat is part of that endeavour.
"The Rhine is a narrow little river compared to Sydney Harbour," a rather uncharitable Bishop Anthony Fisher told reporters. "There'll never have been as spectacular an opening to World Youth Day as we'll have for the pope's arrival here on Sydney Harbour."
After disembarking at Barangaroo, just east of Darling Harbour, (which up until a year ago was a container terminal) the pope will get aboard the popemobile for a traditional motorcade tour of the city.
The highlight of his four-day visit, Pope Benedict's first visit to Australia, will be the closing Mass for an estimated 500,000 Catholics from Australia and abroad.
In terms of numbers there will be nothing for Sydney to boast about if its sums add up. "It will be the smallest World Youth Day final Mass there has ever been," Hanna conceded. Cologne drew 1.2 million for its final Mass and Manila mustered 4 million in 1995.