Pope Benedict XVI petted a koala and met other Australian native animals Wednesday during a low-key second day of a Catholic youth festival that has brought thousands of pilgrims to Sydney.

The pope, enjoying a final day of rest before joining the events on Thursday, held prayers at a private retreat Wednesday, then viewed some native Australian animals brought to him by wildlife officers, including a wallaby, a baby crocodile and a spiky echidna. He petted a koala, scratching it briefly behind the ear and smiling.

The World Youth Day celebration offered a relaxed schedule on Wednesday, beginning with "time for silence for reflection," according to the pilgrims' official handbook. The faithful attended barbecues at hundreds of venues around the city, browsed through souvenir shops and participated in a pilgrimage walk to St. Mary's Cathedral downtown. In the evening, a beach party at Sydney's famous Bondi Beach was to feature a rapping American priest.

Pilgrims also received the second of daily mobile phone text messages from Benedict: "The Holy Spirit gave the Apostles and gives u the power boldly 2 proclaim that Christ is risen! - BXVI."

The pope, enjoying a final day of rest before joining the events on Thursday, held prayers at a private retreat Wednesday, then viewed some native Australian animals brought to him by wildlife officers, including a wallaby, a baby crocodile and a spiky echidna. He petted a koala, scratching it briefly behind the ear and smiling.

Australian fauna was also on the minds of some of the crowds of pilgrims who celebrated together at traditional Aussie fry-ups in the city.

"Is it kangaroo? Because I can't do that," said Carol Stockley from New Jersey as she overlooked meat sizzling on a hot plate at St. Benedict's Catholic Church in the city. "But we'll try the sausages."

At Notre Dame University, hundreds of pilgrims relaxed in a courtyard, posed for pictures with a life-sized cutout of the pope and munched on Tim Tams (Australian cookies) and lamingtons, local favorite coconut sponge cakes.

Sister Mariam Caritas of New York City chewed on a sausage and giggled with fellow nuns as she enjoyed her first Australian barbecue.

"I've never had so much fun in my life!" she declared.

Nearly 250,000 people registered for World Youth Day, more than half from overseas. The scale of the event was revealed when pilgrims arrived in droves and gathered along a waterfront Tuesday near the landmark Sydney Harbor Bridge for a twilight Mass, beginning with a procession of groups from 168 countries waving their national flags.

Their joy has not been matched by everyone. Sydney residents and commuters have had to deal with street closures and bus route detours while the pilgrims have filled the city for days, recognizable by their official yellow, red and orange backpacks and their cheerful greetings and outbursts of song.

As one group of faithful walked down the street belting out a cheerful rendition of "You Are My Sunshine" Wednesday, irritated drivers trying to navigate the city's largely blocked-off downtown roads leaned on their horns. One pilgrim steadily blowing on a whistle to lead his group along a sidewalk drew a sour look and grumble from a woman walking past.

Benedict has been resting at a retreat on Sydney's outskirts. He is to move to the grounds of St. Mary's Cathedral, an imposing gothic-style church that is one of Australia's oldest and largest, later Wednesday, marking the end of his semi-vacation.

On Thursday, he will receive a traditional Aboriginal welcome and tour Sydney's harbor by boat before delivering a major address to pilgrims. A papal Mass on Sunday before thousands at a racetrack in the city is scheduled to end the proceedings.