Pope Benedict has arrived near Australia's biggest city, Sydney, for World Youth Day celebrations. Hundreds of thousands of young pilgrims from around the
world are also expected to attend. The pontiff told reporters on his plane that he would address the crisis of sexual abuse committed by Catholic priests. From Sydney, Phil Mercer reports.
Pope Benedict flew more than 20 hours from the Vatican and landed at a military base near Sydney on Sunday where he was greeted by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. The Pope will spend several days resting at a retreat outside Sydney before his official World Youth Day engagements begin on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters on his flight to Australia, Benedict said he would work during his 10 day pilgrimage to promote healing and reconciliation with the victims of clergy sexual abuse.
The issue of pedophile priests in Australia has overshadowed the build-up to the pontiff's arrival.
Sydney archbishop, Cardinal George Pell, has been criticized for allegedly trying to protect a priest who has since been convicted of molesting children.
The Cardinal has strongly denied any wrongdoing but admits that cases of abuse have harmed the Church's reputation.
"The scandals of the Church are well known. They've damaged us. Where I have a long record of faithful implementation of new protocols which I put in place in Melbourne
and up here, we're not covering up," he said. "Since the middle 90s, whatever the imperfections in particular cases through a lack of information or that, throughout Australia,
substantially, we've done what we should and we're quite prepared to stand by our record. We haven't been able to heal all the hurts."
Benedict will preside over the 23rd World Youth Day, which is expected to attract more visitors to Sydney than the Olympic Games in 2000.
At its peak, organizers have said the Catholic festival will draw half a million people into the center of Australia's most populous city. The streets will host dozens of concerts and shows as well as sidewalk confessionals.
The event has taken five years to plan. Much of central Sydney will be closed to traffic, causing logistical problems for businesses and commuters.
Anti-pope demonstrators are also planning to mark the pontiff's visit by handing out condoms to foreign pilgrims. Activists have promised to greet the pope with banners
celebrating contraception and homosexuality.
The New South Wales state government has brought in new powers for police to fine people for causing annoyance to World Youth Day participants. Opponents of the laws
have said they're draconian and rights groups have challenged their validity in the courts.