There has been a lot of angst in the Sydney media (most notably the Sydney Morning Herald) over last few months about World Youth Day: about the cost, and the extent to which the taxpayers is picking it up; about the disruption to traffic; and about the Pope in particular.
Bishop Fisher, co-ordinator of the event, has made a strong response to the latest criticisms in the Australian last Friday:http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,23705275-7583,00.html
Part of the problem, he argues, is the kind of panic attack that Sydney always seems to experience before these big events. In the case of the Olympics there was even a (rather brilliant) satirical tv show playing on this angst (who can ever forget the episode of The Games where it turns out that the Olympic pool is a metre or so short!). And my personal theory is that Sydneyites are scared of a repeat of the infamy that accrued as a result of The Chaser incident at APEC last year.
The bishop notes though that:
"Of course there are other critics apart from the gloom merchants and nervous nellies. A few seem to be driven by a mixture of old-fashioned anti-Catholicism and more newfangled feeling against all religion. Sectarianism and intolerant secularism are ugly parts of Australia's spiritual landscape which, happily, is more commonly marked by very willing co-operation among churches and faiths and those who are still searching."
You might think secularism is the main issue, and it probably is.
All the same, Sydney's Anglicans, it is worth recalling, are not your normal anything goes variety, but hardline 'Bible Christians'. In fact Sentire Cum Ecclesia ( http://cumecclesia.blogspot.com/2008/04/dear-o-dear-heres-another-one-another.html#links) has discovered some rather blatant attacks on Catholicism in general and World Youth Day in particular on their official website. They are not however the only sect in the Emerald City with such views however!
In fact the worst enemy (as usual) may well be from within. The Sydney Morning Herald has already started to roll-out the Catholicism is so horrid stories (this weekend's is all about the horrors of being caned by nuns). And before that there was the oh so discrete call by prominent dissenters for the Pope to give an apology for abuse while he is here.
Bishop Fisher calls on us to forget the angst and move into the positive anticipation phase.
It is certainly true that the Pope's visit to the United States seems to have had a wonderfully positive impact on the Church there.
We should be praying hard and doing what practical things we can to promote a similar success here.