World's largest confessional staged in Sydney

Other News Materials 20 July 2008 06:54 (UTC +04:00)

At most outdoor festivals the longest queues are generally for the portable toilets and bar but at World Youth Day in Sydney, the Catholic Church's version of Woodstock, one of the biggest queues is for confessing sins.

With some 300,000 young Catholic pilgrims attending WYD from July 15-20 the Church is staging the world's largest confessional, with more than 1,000 priests at anyone time hearing sins and dispensing penance at 250 locations.

"The notion in Sydney was to decentralise the celebration of reconciliation (confession). The groups received reconciliation in over 250 locations throughout greater Sydney," said Monsigneur Marc Caron, the man in charge of the mass confessional.

With pilgrims from more than 170 nations, confessionals had to be organised not just geographically but also according to different languages, Caron told Reuters.

"Some of the locations are from concert halls downtown to function halls to schools and churches. Those are assigned by language, the French have so many venues, we have a Norwegian venue, a Korean and so many Chinese venues," he said.

Organisers have tried to be attentive to the sensitivity of confession and ensure pilgrims do not overhear each other's sins.

"Whilst we don't have sound proof venues, they are padded dividers between stalls and they are in locations where there is so much going on and background noise," said Caron.

"I've been to each of the locations and I think people's privacy is perfectly assured."

Confessions are being heard for up to six hours a day. In order to avoid overloading the priests hearing confessions they are allotted a break every 90 minutes.

Up to 4,000 priests are attending World Youth Day in one capacity or another and will lend an ear to hearing confessions.

"At any one time there could easily be 1,000 priests hearing confession," Caron said. "We're not keeping track of the numbers (of sinners), but at the main venue in Darling Harbour Convention Centre it's very steady all the time."

Caron said even if he knew he wouldn't be able to divulge the top 10 sins being confessed by young pilgrims.

The Catholic Church hopes World Youth Day, the brainchild of the late Pope John Paul II, will revitalise the world's young Catholics, Reuters reported.