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Pope Meets Wallaby, Koala, Python, And A Baby Croc

Pope Benedict XVI meets native Australian animals at Kenthurst - Catechesis and Youth Festival kicks off

Pope Benedict XVI today met special visitors including a koala, red-necked wallaby joey and other unique Australian animals at the Kenthurst Study Centre this morning.

"We wanted to offer the Holy Father an opportunity to experience some of Australia's unique fauna, and were delighted when our partners at Taronga Zoo offered to help," said Fr Mark Podesta, WYD08 spokesman.

"The Holy Father expressed that he wanted to meet some of our native animals, so we were more than happy to offer him this experience," he said.

Fr Mark said the Zoo staff were very professional showing great love for the animals they care for including a wallaby, koala, python, lizard, baby crocodile and an echidna. The Pope patted each of the animals and thanked the team from Taronga Zoo.

Before meeting our native friends, Pope Benedict sent out his daily text message: "the Holy Spirit gave the Apostles & gives u the power boldly 2 proclaim that Christ is risen! - BXVI"

Around Sydney, pilgrims got a real Australian treat with the WYD Big Aussie BBQ. Taking place in over 200 venues, over 220,000 slices of Tip Top "Daily Bread" were served with sausages and tomato sauce.

World Youth Day ambassador Jared Crouch grabbed the tongs today and served up sausages to pilgrims at the University of Notre Dame, Broadway.

If all the 220,000 slices of bread were lined up end to end they would cross the Sydney Harbour Bridge 21 times.

Catechesis also began today, focusing on 'calling to live in the Holy Spirit'. One of the smallest nations, Wallis and Fortuna Islands was represented by their local Bishop De Rasille who spoke in French at the Parish of St Joseph in Oyster Bay.

Over 150 Youth Festival events throughout Sydney took place today, with traditional dance from Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Polynesia and indigenous Australians taking place at Hyde Park from 2pm - 10pm.

Later tonight, Italian Christian heavy metal band, Metatrone are set to perform at Tumbalong Park. Bronx-based rapping priest Fr Stan Fortuna is expected to draw a full crowd at his two concerts at the Royal Hall of Industries, Moore Park and Bondi Beach.

A massive gathering of Italian Catholics is taking place tonight at the Sydney Entertainment Centre which will be broadcast live to Italy from 4.30pm - 6.30pm. The event will feature Richard Campbell, performances by Gary Pinto and Metatrone, with the Italian Ambassador to Australia also taking part.

Tomorrow will be "Super Holy Thursday", when the Pope will visit the shrine of Mary MacKillop and then travel down Sydney harbour on a Boat-a-cade, before being welcomed at Barangaroo.

ENDS

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