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November 30, 2020

Fifty years ago, Pope Paul VI celebrated a Papal Mass at Randwick Racecourse.

The main mass was held on 30 November 1970, and a youth mass took place the next day. According to the Women’s Weekly at the time, half-a-million people were expected at the mass. The elaborate altar set up in the infield at Randwick was to be surrounded by chrysanthemums and white petunias and 200,000 candles were to be distributed to the crowds. Several hundred amplifiers were in place to ensure the Pope’s words were heard by all.

On 26 November 1986, it was Pope John Paul II who visited Randwick Racecourse to celebrate mass, and afterwards he sent an apostolic blessing to commemorate his visit. Pope John Paul II returned in 1995 for the beatification of Mary Mackillop. Crowds of worshippers flooded into Randwick for the ceremony despite the wet weather.

More recently, Pope Benedict II held the final mass for World Youth Day at Royal Randwick Racecourse in 2008. The disruption of the previous year with the Equine Influenza that had shut down racing, made such a big event controversial. But after much negotiation and a decision on the compensation favourable to the AJC, the event went ahead with great success.

Image: Crowds at Randwick for the beatification, 1995, unknown photographer

Learn more about the Australian Turf Club Heritage Centre

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