This Saturday 28 young people from the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle will depart from Newcastle's Sacred Heart Cathedral to join newly elected Pope Francis and millions of people from around the world in Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day 2013 (23-28 July).
World Youth Day (WYD) is an international event organised by the Catholic Church which provides a unique opportunity for young people from all around the world to come together and celebrate their faith.
The Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle has organised a 21 day pilgrimage to South America and the pilgrims will join more than 1800 other young Australians and 16 Bishops for Pope Francis' first WYD which will celebrate the theme "Go and make disciples of all nations" (Mt 28:19).
Pilgrimage Leader for the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, Elroy Aguiar, says this year's WYD has a specific focus on mission with many groups choosing to include immersion or mission experiences as part of their pilgrimage.
"Our group will be working with the Christian Life Movement in Buenos Aires, Argentina and I look forward to working and walking with a community of people who are less fortunate then ourselves," Mr Aguiar said.
"I expect that what we can give to them will be of little significance compared to the way they will change our minds and hearts," he said.
Mr Aguiar hopes that the pilgrimage will be a true encounter with Christ and will provide an opportunity to see God in those with whom the group travels, "those whom we serve and those whom we meet along the way," he said.
"I have no doubt that at times we will be tired, homesick and challenged by what we face. But this is part and parcel of what pilgrimage is all about. As we journey we will discover a new country, a different way of life and parts of ourselves which we were unaware of previously," he said.
Bishop of Maitland-Newcastle, Bill Wright, said the "encounter with the youth of the world, in the presence of the Spirit of Christ, will be memorable and life giving."
Bishop Bill has asked the pilgrims to "consider the rich opportunity that is presented to you..." and has offered "my heartfelt blessing as you embark on a path to celebration with our Holy Father."
The Australian Gathering will take place on Wednesday 24 July at Vivo Rio from 2-4pm and will celebrate Australia's participation in WYD.
Catechesis and the highly anticipated Papal Welcome will take place on Thursday 25 July, followed by Catechesis and Stations of the Cross on Friday 26 July.
Another highlight of WYD will be the Vigil Sleepout on Saturday 27 July followed by the WYD final Mass on Sunday 28 July. At the end of the Mass, the Holy Father is expected to announce where the next World Youth Day will be held.
MEDIA PHOTO OPPORTUNITY
WYD Rio Pilgrim Mass of Blessing at Sacred Heart Cathedral and boarding the bus.
WHAT: A Mass of Blessing for all pilgrims before the group departs by bus for Sydney.
WHEN: Saturday 13 July at 11.30am
WHERE: Sacred Heart Cathedral, 841 Hunter Street, Newcastle West.
All media are invited to attend and take photos of the pilgrims at Mass and/or as they board the bus.