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food for thought

Herbie von Smalls

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now that the world youth day celebrations are over and the pope has left aussie shores, some semblance of everyday life is returning to oz. the influx of hundreds of thousands of 'pilgrims' has raised a few heckles, certainly in terms of the liberties of the rest of the general public being enroached upon - e.g. freedom of movement within sydney; moving the homeless into safety/out of sight (delete as applicable) for the duration; the attempted clampdown on the right to protest - the n.s.w. govt brought in a law to fine heftily anyone 'annoying or disrupting' pilgrims (it was largely rescinded through the courts; and did spawn t-shirts bearing such wisdoms as '$5,500 [£2500] to annoy a catholic, a price worth paying').

one of the daily papers here had an (intentionally?) ironic headline, beneath a picture of the pope, arms outspread messianically, on the red carpet before thousands of enraptured youngsters, reading 'benedict warns of lure of false idols'.

but beyond my own scepticism towards the vatican - and the hypocrisy i feel it is guilty of - i found elements of the whole affair quite remarkable, having spoken to someone who'd returned from leading a group of schoolkids to the main event there.

i asked her what was so memorable, and aside from all the spiritual fulfilment one might expect, the fact that 200,000 were gathered to celebrate one cause with like-minded individuals from across the globe and there was not one fight, theft or crime reported as a result of the assembly. the lack of alcohol may have gone some way to contributing to this.

whether or not you might feel that churchgoers are misguided, gullible, self-righteous or just plain wrong, i reckon the apparent mutual consideration, cameraderie and respect for personal space is personally speaking a timely restoration of a bit of faith in humanity and the positivity that exists therein.

much as i abhor a lot of what the hierarchy stands for and the damage it has done throughout history, channelled in a positive manner, it seems religion can inspire a lot of warmth and unity even in this day and age. i never thought i'd have acknowledged that from this particular event.

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There were plenty of 'pilgrims' in Scruffy Murphy's getting wrecked every night.


They also invaded my personal space with their pushing, shouting and flag waving. Circular Quay was a nightmare thanks to them.


f*cking pilgrims.

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