The Weekend Australian - Review - - Rear View - JANE FRASER

IVE al­ways quite en­vied peo­ple who per­form in pub­lic; half of me longs to be the cen­tre of at­ten­tion and the other half cringes at the thought. I’d hate to be mar­ried to an ac­tor, how­ever, be­cause you’d never re­ally know whether a con­ver­sa­tion was just a po­ten­tially Os­car- win­ning per­for­mance.

In July we’re be­ing treated to a se­ries of open- air theatre, when the sta­tions of the cross will be re- en­acted in Syd­ney, dur­ing World Youth Day, an event at­tract­ing its fair share of con­tro­versy.

There are those who wel­come it and those who ve­he­mently op­pose it, many from within the church, who long for it to be an ab­ject fail­ure for rea­sons best known to them­selves.

Spruik­ing re­li­gion can be a funny busi­ness. I was at a lunch re­cently with a most in­ter­est­ing man who has been study­ing in Rome for eight years and has a brain bulging with re­li­gious knowl­edge. Some guests shuf­fled their feet and beat a hasty re­treat.

When I wrote about Abo­rig­i­nal young­sters from the Kim­ber­ley at­tend­ing WYD, I was as­sailed with vit­riol from some quar­ters; one wo­man, how­ever, not Catholic, called to say she had read the piece and would be in touch with the Bishop of Broome to say she would pay for track­suits for the young peo­ple.

I think most peo­ple, es­pe­cially those of my gen­er­a­tion, are ret­i­cent about overt dis­plays of emo­tion, which ob­vi­ously in­cludes re­li­gion, and we feel un­easy about a very pub­lic procla­ma­tion of faith. It’s too em­bar­rass­ing.

Nev­er­the­less, the plans of young peo­ple from all over the world to visit Syd­ney are gath­er­ing mo­men­tum. My new friend, Tim Hoag, a young priest from Spearfish, South Dakota, and his 38 pil­grims and five sem­i­nar­i­ans are busy rais­ing money by dog­walk­ing, babysit­ting, yard work and so forth, and, like the young peo­ple from the Kim­ber­ley, will be sleep­ing on a class­room floor.

A Syd­ney school, Santa Sabina, has raised al­most $ 30,000 to bring poverty- stricken black South African girls from a shanty town out­side Dur­ban.

Fran­cis­can priest Paul Ghanem says his event, Come to the Wa­ter, an af­ter­noon takeover of Bondi beach, is go­ing swimmingly. But the nay- say­ers, still mum­bling, are crossly giv­ing the whole thing the thumbs- down. They’d much rather see the horses at Rand­wick than the Pope.

But surely, re­li­gion aside for a mo­ment, even those who have no truck with Chris­tian­ity and what they would call mawk­ish sen­ti­ment would recog­nise that, if noth­ing else, this is a mar­vel­lous op­por­tu­nity for young peo­ple on a global scale to learn about each other.

The Spearfish priest clearly has lit­tle idea of what Aus­tralia is all about. He says they are also sell­ing shares in their trip.

The holder of one share is en­ti­tled to an au­then­tic Aus­tralian meal, sideshow and WYD pre­sen­ta­tion on their re­turn.

‘‘ We ac­tu­ally don’t know what an au­then­tic meal is, but we hope to dis­cover this while in your coun­try,’’ he says.

re­view@ theaus­tralian. com. au

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