Sydney is currently playing host to "World Youth Day", an assemblage of Catholics (specifically) young and old, over the course of about six days.
The streets of Sydney's central business district were choked today, rather a lot more than yesterday, with great crowds of people with conspicuous tags across their chests and ubiquitous yellow and red backpacks. There's a bit of happy clapping, a bit more singing, and they seem relatively joyful so far. Even the group that I saw shadowed by a bunch of chanting Hari Krishnas.
I also have to note that, from the Africans in Pitt St to the Papua New Guineans in Randwick, to the Chileans on the Coogee bus, the ones I have seen seem relatively confined to the middle classes.
It is all concentrated around Sydney central and Randwick, where I live, and where Ratzinger (is the catholic a pope?) will conduct a large event at Randwick Racecourse. This means that the pope will have visited the racecourse more times in a week than I will have in all the time I've lived in Sydney.
There is controversy of several kinds.
First, a number of protesters will be railing against the Catholic hierarchy's stance on issues such as birth control, homosexuality and abortion. Nothing changes on either side.
Second is the regulations put in place by the NSW government to ban people from annoying catholics. It wasn't me that asked them to do that, say church representatives. Anyway, it looks like the regulations were struck down by the courts.
Third, as usual the pope arrives into a storm of controversy over immoral catholic priests that have abused people. It's not something that will go away, as long as you mandate priests to forego their earthly and temporal natures. But the problem here is Sydney's Catholic archbishop, George Pell. A few years ago he knocked back someone's complaint about priestly sexual abuse, saying that a) the priest claimed it was consensual, and b) nobody else had complained about the priest. At the time Pell wrote that letter, he had recently received evidence to the contrary on both counts. Now, he claims that such responses were due to "honest mistakes". As if. Pell has amply demonstrated his capacity to be unethical. In fact, the priest concerned was more open about confessing his sins (albeit well after the event) to both Pell and the victim, than Pell was forthright to the victim. It's the clerical equivalent of hands in the biscuit jar. Yet Pell is in no hurry to confess his culpabilities.
People who lack sufficient ethics will out themselves eventually.