What a big day we had.
Saturday (19/7) was a great day for reason in Sydney. The pope has been in town for a few days now and Saturday was the day that the pilgrims would be going on a 10km exodus across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, through the city streets and over to Randwick Racecourse o hear an 81 year old virgin in a dress tell them about proper sexual practices (among other things)
Saturday morning started early, we were lucky to have been able to stay in north Sydney at our friend's apartment (Thanks Fleur). Just let me add that it is perhaps the most amazing views of the harbour that any residential address has. We melted out of bed at 5am still suffering from the effects of a party not long diffused and we met up with the other early morning atheists for a march to Observatory Hill where we welcomed the pilgrims as they crossed the bridge.
We were met by around 15 police as we were getting ready for the morning walk (not bad for 8 atheists!) who were just there to make sure it all went smoothly. When we got to the observatory, we were given a specific patch of grass to stand on and were told that we would get arrested if we got any closer.
As the pilgrims crossed the bridge, we were waving and welcomed them to the city. The point of the protest at this point was just to be a presence and to show that the atheists weren't going to make a nuisance of ourselves. There was a bit of interaction with the pilgrims, singing John Lennon's 'Imagine' to them and being told that Jesus loved us.
The morning went well and we were there for over an hour as the sun rose and were seen by a great deal of the pilgrims.
Afterwards, we all split up. Many went home, but Rach, Tynan, Dave and myself decided to hit the streets for a bit of close contact with the pilgrims to pass the time before the afternoon's major protest.
We had a few discussions with people that we met on George st, mostly about whether the funding for World Youth Day should have been covered by the catholic church or the Australian taxpayer. There were no confrontations and everyone was really nice, emphasising that it is not the believer, it is the institution that causes the problems.
We then decided to look in the merchandise store and were stunned by the official WCYD bible passage "you will know the power of the lord when the holy spirit comes over you" !!!! Couldn't they have picked something with less of an explicit sexual innuendo to it? There's children there wearing this on shirts, hats, keyrings and scarves! That's catholicism for you.
It was at this point that one of the security guards came over and told us that we would be kicked out if we didn't stop laughing at the trinkets. We calmed down a bit and got to see the Jesus and Mary from the stations of the cross talking about being able to feel Jesus and being brought to tears as he was taken off the cross.
There was a statue of 'Unlucky Jesus' (a name we gave him because he was made of broken mirrors) and when we were leaving the park, the Pope was doing his apology to the victims of sexual abuse in the church and a reporter from SBS radio came and interviewed Tynan about it.
We then made our way over to Taylor Square where the major protest was going to take place...
(I'll split this into Two separate posts, because this is getting pretty long)