Asian Pilgrims Celebrate Faith, Culture

10,000 Gather at Olympic Park

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SYDNEY, Australia, JULY 17, 2008 (Zenit.org).- More than 10,000 World Youth Day pilgrims from Asia gathered Wednesday for a concert at Olympic Park for the Fifth Asian Youth Gathering.

The event organized by the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences included music, testimonies and prayers in English, Mandarin and Cantonese. The gathering was titled www.sgen.asianyouth, which is not an Internet address, but shorthand for Witnessing Worldwide. Spirit Generation. Asian Youth.

According to the organizers, the meeting highlighted the richness of Asian heritage through cultural presentations from the participating countries. The first Asian Youth Gathering was held at the World Youth Day in Paris in 1997.

The occasion was quite a spectacle, with thousands of young people -- many dressed in their native costume -- waving banners and flags of their various countries of origin.

"To be here in Sydney helps us to see that, in the world, Catholics -- though coming from very different countries -- truly have only one faith and one Church," said young Pun Ming Chi, 22, seminarian from Hong Kong, told the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano.

Hong Kong, he said, is a multi-cultural reality, where respect for Catholics -- who in any case are a small minority -- does exist and where liberty is guaranteed. "But certainly this experience, which I am living in Australian land, will give me further strength to live the faith in my country," he added.

Hopes for China

Asked what he hopes for, he replied smiling: "That sooner or later a World Youth Day might be organized in Beijing. For us Catholics, it would be an occasion to celebrate our faith freely, united to other young Catholics of the rest of the continent and of the whole world."

Among those taking part in the celebration were many Asians residing in Australia. In Sydney alone, it is estimated that Asians constitute 3% of the population.

Especially significant is the presence of 1,500 young Vietnamese in Sydney. The community mobilized for the youth event to offer hospitality to the 2,000 Vietnamese who came to World Youth Day. Not only were the young pilgrims welcomed, but they were also given financial aid.

The Philippines has provided the largest number of pilgrims from Asia, with 2,500, while 700 have come from Indonesia and 260 from Japan.

World Youth Day organizers have not released information on the number of pilgrims from China.