Thursday, 17 July 2008
By midday today the streets of the Sydney's central business district were filled with groups like this: in the morning the Pope had made a quick drive-by across the Harbour Bridge and to Government House (which is not where parliament meets, but the official home Queen's state representative), there was a lull while he prepared for his boat trip. Most of the "pilgrims" appeared to fill this time by wandering around waving flags, singing their national anthem, and generally acting like very straight kids who for for the first time in their lives feel kind of important.
Which is probably what most of them are. The kids above were from New Mexico and having the time of their lives: the only really obnoxious group I encountered were a group of Canadians acting more like football hooligans than pilgrims. The picture of them below was taken on the escalators at Martin Place station: the two dark figures at the right are Railway cops coming up to speak to them about the almost-empty coke cans they'd been throwing around on the subway platform.
The most inspiring thing was that despite whole thing being, let's face it, just a giant advertisement for Archbishop Pell's life-denying vision of Christianity, human nature and those wild old hormones that only a wonderfully humorous God could have made in such abundance, kept bobbing up at every turn.
The kids in the back of this picture are from Indonesia, while those in the front (the really cute girls) and the guys on the far right came from (I think) Northern Italy. And I'm not going to risk anyone getting busted by saying which girl I later saw flirting outrageously with the super-cool Indonesian guy in the black t-shirt - but let me tell ya: if I was 17 and had seen them I'd have converted on the spot. If that's Catholicism it's the religion for me, no matter what a bunch of grumpy old guys might claim ;)
Incidentally, check out the kid's shirt up close:
There's no way hard-liners of any demonination would approve of that, and him wearing it struck me as one of the most wonderful things I saw. No matter how hard you might try to keep the human spirit down, it always bounces back up in the end. For this boy it was no doubt just a shirt; something that looks cool he'd bought in an upmarket shop: he looked far too young to think through the theology of wht he was wearing. But for me it was a reminder of why God really does love our crazy species so much. Irrespective of what those who profess to speak in God's name might say.