POPE'S  SMS  RALLIES  THOUSANDS  OF  CATHOLICS

SYDNEY, JULY 21, 2008
(MALAYA) Pope Benedict texted thousands of young pilgrims in Australia on Tuesday, urging them to renew their faith as they gathered for the Catholic Church's largest youth festival.

Hymns and chants of hallelujah filled Sydney's streets as hundreds of thousands of young Catholics from around the world gathered for the opening mass of World Youth Day, July 15-20.

"Young friend, God and his people expect much from u because u have within you the Fathers supreme gift: the Spirit of Jesus - BXVI," read the first of the Pope's daily text messages which will be sent out during World Youth Day.

Using "u" instead of "you" is a popular shortcut among youth around the world, who send millions of text, or SMS, messages daily.

Pope Benedict arrived in Sydney on Sunday and will attend World Youth Day events from Thursday, culminating in a Sunday mass before an estimated 300,000 pilgrims.

The Pope has said he will apologize to Australian victims of sexual abuse in the church. Broken Rites, which represents abuse victims, has a list of 107 convictions for church abuse, but says there may be thousands more victims as only a few go to court.

The Pope confronted the issue of sexual abuse in the church during a visit to Washington in April, meeting victims and vowing to keep pedophiles out of the priesthood.

Sydney is treating World Youth Day as bigger than the Olympics, urging workers to take holidays. Organizers estimate the event will earn the city up to A$200 million.

But the Catholic Church hopes the biggest windfall will be religious in a country where church attendances are falling. Despite being led by the oldest Pope elected, the church believes the 81-year-old pontif can still engage with young people. - Reuters


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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