By Anthony Barich
Catholic News Service
PERTH, Australia (CNS) – New South Wales state police have been asked not to take annual leave or attend court appearances during World Youth Day events July 15-20 in Sydney in order to provide increased security.
According to The Australian, a daily newspaper, 4,000 officers will be on duty during World Youth Day when officials are predicting 225,000 participants at daily events and 500,000 attending the final Mass July 20 at Royal Randwick Racecourse.
Kristina Keneally, a World Youth Day spokeswoman, said the event would not involve the lockdown-style security measures used during last year's meeting of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders in Sydney when police used fences to barricade parts of the city.
"Sydney during World Youth Day will not be Sydney during APEC," Keneally said. "What we have is a celebration of youth."
Keneally said the pope's recent U.S. visit indicated to Australian security forces that Sydney could expect an atmosphere of celebration, festivity and happiness from the crowds.
Australian Cardinal George Pell of Sydney also told the newspaper that World Youth Day is on track to register the anticipated number of participants and said he has "no significant concerns" about security.
The cardinal added that Pope Benedict "is a really splendid teacher and a really pleasant personality. He is not John Paul II, but I am sure Australians will warm to him."
Cardinal Pell described himself as "a veteran of three World Youth Days" and called them "happy occasions, not just for the participants but for the whole community."
"It is a Catholic celebration but it will be open to all young people," he said. "It will be good for the whole of society."
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