BY MARK GREAVES
ABOUT 4,000 young people from Britain will travel to Sydney for World Youth Day, according to the Australian bishop who is organising the event.
Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney said that more and more Britons had been attending World Youth Day over the last few years.
In 2005 more than 3,000 British young people travelled to Cologne to see Pope Benedict XVI on his first apostolic journey, and the number is expected to rise again in 2008.
The bishop said that some British people would go to the event while backpacking around Australia as part of their gap year.
But he added that the experience would have an enor mom impact on many young people's lives. "Some of them will go because they think it will be a good party," the bishop said "But many people say that World Youth Day was spiritually important for them, that it changed their lives.
"We know it is the first time that many think seriously about their faith. We know a lot of them will become more active in their parish life or work life and put their faith into action. Some will come back happier and more idealistic."
Bishop Fisher is travelling around Europe and America speaking to bishops, head teachers and youth groups in order to "get the word out".
The bishop said he has been handing out DVDs and posters but he has also been trying to hear what young people would like to see happen at the event.
A youth group he spoke to in the Diocese of Brentwood was full of ideas. "I had pages and pages of notes. They even suggested a Catholic rugby world cup," he added.
Bishop Fisher said that in Germany being a Catholic -became culturally a bit cooler" after the 2005 World Youth Day, when more than a million people gathered in Cologne.
"It really brings God and the Church out into the public," he said. "People see religion as something you should do privately at home. But it will make the mainstream media talk about God, and it will become respectable to talk about God in public."
Bishop Fisher said that organising the event was "the biggest and most scary thing" that he was ever likely to do.
"It is so wonderful. I will look back and think what a privilege it was to be part of that," he added.
World Youth Day was initiated by John Paul H in 1984 and is celebrated with a massive gathering of young people every two or three years.
in 1995 the event was held in Manila, in the Philippines, and drew five million Catholics the largest crowd ever recorded.
World Youth Day in Sydney will begin on July 15, 2008, with a Mass celebrated by Cardinal George Pell.
Each day there will be seminars, conferences and concens, as well as a televised Mass and catechesis.
On July 19 there will be a pilgrimage across Sydney Harbour Bridge to Randwick Racecourse an area normally used for horseracing where there will be an overnight vigil.
Hundreds of thousands of Catholics are expected to sleep "under the stars" in preparation for Sunday moming Mass celebrated by Benedict XVI.