20 Jul 2008

500,000 expected to attend papal mass in Sydney

12:30 pm on 20 July 2008

Pope Benedict XVI has been given a rapturous reception by hundreds of thousands of people gathered for the World Youth Day papal mass in Sydney.

The final papal mass of the celebrations is expected to attract a crowd of 500,000 people at Randwick Racecourse on Sunday.

The 81-year-old pontiff will preside over the two-hour outdoor mass from 10am local time.

Large television screens will be set up and millions of people from around the world are expected to tune in.

After the mass, the Pope will announce the next city to host an international World Youth Day in two or three years.

The mass will be followed by a concert for pilgrims.

Pope apology for sex abuse victims

On Saturday, the Pope apologised to people sexually abused by members of the clergy in Australia.

He raised the issue during a ceremony to consecrate the altar of St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney on Saturday, where he has been participating in World Youth Day activities.

"Here I would like to pause to acknowledge the shame which we have all felt as a result of the sexual abuse of minors by some clergy and religious in this country," the Pope said.

"Indeed I am deeply sorry for the pain and suffering the victims have endured and I assure them that, as their pastor, I too share in their suffering.

"These misdeeds, which constitute so grave a betrayal of trust, deserve unequivocal condemnation. They have caused great pain, they have damaged the church's witness."

The Pope called on his audience of 3,400 people, including Sydney Archbishop Cardinal George Pell, bishops, seminarians, and religious and school groups, to work together in "combatting this evil".

"Victims should receive compassion and care, and those responsible for these evils must be brought to justice," he said.

Protests against Church doctrine

About 1,000 protesters rallied against Church doctrine, chanting "pope is wrong, put a condom on" and throwing inflated condoms into the air.

One protester dressed as a drag queen called "Pope Alice", while others wore "Pope Go Homo" T-shirts, as some 200,000 young pilgrims marched across Sydney Harbour Bridge on Saturday.

Police kept protesters and pilgrims apart, but arrested one pilgrim after he punched a "No Pope" protester in the face.