SYDNEY, ON SATURDAY morning Jul 19, thronged with colourfully attired pilgrims from 170 countries as they made their Pilgrimage Walk to Randwick Racecourse to greet Pope Benedict
and celebrate the main events of WYD08 with him.

For some, the 10-kilometre walk began as early as 5.30am. The various Singapore groups started at different places.

The CAYC contingent started its journey at 10.00am from Mary McKillop’s Chapel in North Sydney. We stopped to pray at seven designated "Power Stations" along Anzac Parade after crossing the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Led by Canossian Sister Jessica, we prayed for wisdom, awe, understanding, knowledge, counsel, courage and piety – gifts of the Holy Spirit – in keeping with the theme of WYD08: "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses."

Nearing Randwick, we encountered different groups of protesters who taunted and mocked us despite police action to keep them away.

In response, we began singing the WYD08 theme song, "Receive the Power", and pilgrims from other countries joined in the singing. Pilgrims later shared their experiences of feeling the Holy Spirit’s guidance along this stretch of the walk.

We arrived at Randwick Racecourse at about 3.00pm. By then the venue was already packed and more people were arriving every minute. Pope Benedict arrived at 7.00pm.

The evening’s vigil included an invitation to pilgrims to light their candles, testimonies from pilgrims of different nationalities, an invocation of the Holy Spirit and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction. From the time of the pope’s departure at 9.00pm till the next morning, we took turns to adore the Blessed Sacrament for an hour each. The night was cold but we woke up, nevertheless, at the designated hour to make our way to the tent where the Blessed Sacrament was kept.

Pope Benedict returned the next morning at about 10.00am to celebrate Mass with a congregation estimated at 350,000-400,000. The crowd cheered when he came. During the morning’s ceremony, all pilgrims were invited to renew their baptismal promises.

Cheers broke out when Pope Benedict announced that Madrid would host the next WYD in 2011, and he laughed, pleased with the crowd’s response.

WYD08 ended at 1.00pm for us as we left Randwick Racecourse and walked back to the city, still bearing the Singapore flag. -  By Joyce Gan

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