13 Jul 2008

Pope due in Sydney today

10:18 am on 13 July 2008

Pope Benedict XVI will arrive in Australia on Sunday afternoon to join hundreds of thousands of young people celebrating World Youth Day.

His arrival time in Sydney is 3pm (AEST).

As he did during a recent trip to the United States, Pope Benedict, 81, will offer apologies to Australian victims of sexual abuse by priests.

Australian bishops also issued an apology for past abuses in 2002.

The ABC reports the trip will be Pope Benedict's longest since becoming pope three years ago.

He will rest for several days at a retreat near Sydney ahead of the six-day event celebrating the Catholic faith aimed at young people.

His first public appearance will be at the head of a Sydney Harbour flotilla next Thursday.

The event will culminate on 20 July in an open-air mass at Randwick Racecourse, which is expected to attract more than 500,000 people, including about 125,000 international pilgrims.

Benedict XVI is the third pontiff to visit Australia after Pope John Paul II (1995 and 1986) and Pope Paul VI (1970).

It is the pope's ninth trip outside Italy. His plane, a chartered Alitalia B777, is scheduled to make an hour-long refuelling stopover in Darwin, before arriving at the RAAF Richmond air base in western Sydney.

Text messages

Telstra has launched a telecommunications precinct in Hyde Park to allow pilgrims to receive daily text messages from the Pope and upload prayers to giant screens.

More than 540km of fibre optic cable will beam WYD event broadcasts to about 200 countries, with an estimated audience of one billion people.

Eight temporary base stations will be erected to allow young pilgrims to send text messages to family and friends.

Four giant digital "prayer wall" screens will be at the Sydney Opera House, the Domain, Darling Harbour and Randwick Racecourse.