Pilgrimage Group Preparing "Aussie Invasion"

5,000 Expected to Travel for MacKillop Canonization

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SYDNEY, Australia, JUNE 21, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Some 5,000 pilgrims from down under are expected in Rome for the canonization of Australia's first saint, Blessed Mary MacKillop.



The managing director of Harvest Pilgrimages, Philip Ryall, reported that the Oct. 17 canonization is shaping up to be the largest pilgrimage ever to leave the shores of Australia and New Zealand, easily surpassing World Youth Day 2005 when 2,200 youth traveled to Cologne, Germany.

"There is going to be an Aussie invasion of Rome," Ryall said. "We have been inundated with groups booking their pilgrimage every day.

"We have group booking from every diocese, schools and movements, as well as lots of private travelers, who are not part of a group.

"People are realizing that this is not only an extremely historic occasion, with the canonization of Australia's first saint, but it will also be a moment of grace. And nothing beats being there to experience this moment of grace with your own eyes, in person."

Benedict XVI will preside at the canonization, which will be held in St. Peter's Square.

Mary MacKillop, born in Victoria in 1842, founded the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart, which established schools and charitable organizations across Australia and was devoted to the care of orphans, neglected children, the homeless, sick and elderly. She died in 1909.

Pope John Paul II beatified Sister MacKillop in 1995, saying she embodied the best of Australia and its people.

In 2008, Sister MacKillop was a key patron of the World Youth Day hosted by Sydney, Australia. Ahead of the international youth event, the government honored the nun by featuring her on a collector's coin.

The Sisters of St Joseph, the Archdiocese of Sydney, and the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, named Harvest Pilgrimages as the Official Canonization Tour Operator. As such, it is responsible for the movement of pilgrims to Rome, as well as the coordination of canonization tickets for Australian pilgrims into a specially partitioned area in St. Peter's Square.

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On the Net:

For more information: www.marymackillop.org.au