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Pope leads World Youth Day Mass in Sydney

Pope Benedict XVI leads a Mass to wrap up the Roman Catholic global youth festival, energizing thousands of shivering pilgrims who camped out overnight at the open-air venue.

world Updated: Jul 20, 2008 08:39 IST

Pope Benedict XVI was leading a Mass on Sunday to wrap up the Roman Catholic global youth festival, energizing thousands of bleary-eyed and shivering pilgrims who camped out overnight at the open-air venue.

The Mass, at a horse racetrack in Sydney, follows a forceful apology yesterday for the sexual abuse of children by Australia's Roman Catholic clergy, keeping up efforts begun in the United States to publicly atone for what he called evil acts by priests.

Tens of thousands of pilgrims braved chilly nighttime temperatures for a massive sleepout under the stars, gathered together one final time for the Mass. They erupted into cheers when the pope flew overhead in a helicopter, which some dubbed "the holy-copter."

As they waited for him to return to the ground, they huddled in prayer, warmed up with hot coffee and kicked around soccer balls.

When the pontiff returned in the popemobile he received a rock-star welcome, with pilgrims from more than 160 countries waving the flags of their nations, cheering and chanting: "Benedicto!, Benedicto!"

Before the pope arrived, Vera Bajan, 41, of the southern Australian city of Melbourne, sat on a tarp with her son and nephew trying to wake up after a long night in sleeping bags on the ground.

"Lots of joyous singing all around us - really not much sleep," Bajan said with a laugh.

In his apology on Saturday, Benedict said: "I am deeply sorry for the pain and suffering the victims have endured and I assure them as their pastor that I too share in their suffering," Benedict said in Sydney's St Mary's Cathedral.