~from The Age
The 3.8-metre tall cross that symbolises World Youth Day has landed in Australia, as preparations begin for the event to be attended next year by Pope Benedict and an expected a half million Catholics.
The cross and an accompanying icon - a portrait of the Virgin Mary - arrived from New Zealand to be formally handed over to Australia's Catholic leaders at an airport ceremony on Sunday attended by Prime Minister John Howard.
Hundreds of clergy and other representatives from Catholic and indigenous communities of Australia and New Zealand gathered inside a Qantas hangar to welcome the arrival of the emblems of the week-long event, to be held in Sydney next July.
Archbishops from both countries inspired the audience with speeches about what World Youth Day means to young people and the world of Christianity.
Mr Howard said after the ceremonial handover that next year's gathering of an estimated 500,000 people would give Christians an opportunity to experience and renew their faith.
"The cross and the icon (are) a reminder that next year World Youth Day will be a magnificent opportunity for the young in their thousands, not only from Australia, but around the world, to reaffirm their faith and to remind the world and to remind this nation of the enduring relevance and resonance about the Christian message," he told the gathering.
"It's an occasion not only for Catholics, but for all who profess the Christian faith and the Christian belief, to celebrate the marvellous message of the Christian religion and its continuing importance to our country and the life of all of its citizens."