Meetings and moments of prayer have characterised the preparation young people underwent in anticipation of World Youth Day. Special heed was paid to Benedict XVI’s message which calls on all to announce the message of salvation.

Various dioceses from different Asian countries are preparing the 23rd edition of World Youth Day with joint prayers, Mass, meetings to discuss the theme chosen by Benedict XVI and study groups to improve participants’ proficiency in English. The event is set to open next week in Sydney (Australia).

For participants the event represents a unique moment in which they can meet and compare themselves with young people from the five continents, further develop their knowledge and strengthen bonds of friendship, thus becoming true “witnesses of Christ” as the Pope pointed out.

From Bangkok, Thailand: Fr Anthony Saravuth, chaplain of the Catholic Commission for the Youth, will accompany 79 delegates, in representation of Thailand’s Catholic community. “In preparing the WYD we focused on the Pope’s Apostolic Letter to better understand the meaning of the event and march in the same direction,” he said. Young Thais, including a Buddhist, to leave for Asian Youth Day. In view of the event, the Thai Church organised seminars to prepare them. Sessions were held on life, drugs and dialogue. But the greatest challenge seems to be society's unbridled competitiveness.

In describing the content of a recent seminar, he said that it was necessary “to prepare a joint programme in which the culture of the country and the WYD theme are explained” because participants come from ten dioceses across the country, each with its own traditions and customs.

Bangladesh: A delegation of 21 youths will also travel from Bangladesh. In preparation for the event meetings were organised to further discuss Benedict XVI’s message.

“Going to Sydney is not a pleasure trip,” Sister Zita Rema, secretary to the Bangladeshi bishops' Youth Commission, told UCA News, but rather it “is a unique moment of prayer and witness of our faith in Jesus Christ. For this reason we organised orientation sessions in preparation for WYD.”

Participants are actually meeting today in their final session and will celebrate Mass before they are off to Australia.

From New Delhi, India: More than 500 young Indians will take part in this year’s World Youth Day to be held in Sydney, Australia, on 15-20 July. It will be the largest Indian delegation ever. Some 14 bishops, 80 priests, religious and a few representatives of other religions from India will also be coming.

This was a national initiative launched by the Commission for Youth of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) in collaboration with the Indian Catholic Youth Movement (ICYM) and Youth Activ8 Foundation under the chairmanship of Mgr Leo Cornelio, archbishop of Bhopal.

Prior to the World Youth Day in Sydney the delegates will take part in a cultural exchange programme, including a social work project experience, living with host families in New Zealand and Australia. Thus they will be able to learn about Catholic life “down under”.

In a press statement the CBCI noted that “the programme is expected not only to enrich the delegates spiritually but also broaden their horizons so that they can contribute towards the development of their motherland.”

From Vietnam: Some 700 to 900 young Vietnamese will attend World Youth Day 2008. In view of the event, many Catholic dioceses in Vietnam organised seminars to prepare them. Sessions were held on life, culture, dialogue, and most of all the themes of the WYD 2008 at Sydney.

Catholic Youth Chaplaincy in some dioceses such as My Tho, Kontum, Hue, Hanoi, Saigon, etc... organized the meetings in which they discussed with the youth about their country's problems, ways they can contribute to building a better society and how to prepare for the World Youth Day. A Youth Coordinator who attended WYD in Canada the last time, reminded them that they had a "very good opportunity... to have an experience to share with others, to meet new friends."

Indeed, on this occasion, young Catholics come from Vietnam will have the opportunity to meet with other young Vietnamese come from other countries such as USA, France, Canada, etc...

A member from the 117 Group came from Oakland said that: "I am so exited to meet with other young people, we will talk about the meaning of 'hope' and 'trust' in God even in one's most difficult times... As young Catholics we must make a commitment to dialogue with our friends, our Vietnamese youth, and even young people of other religions."