Pope Benedict XVI will take a three-day holiday when he arrives in Australia next Sunday.

The Pope is travelling for the World Youth Day event, which begins on 15 July.

He arrives on 13 July but will not be officially welcomed to Sydney until 17 July, staying in the meantime at the Kenthurst Study Centre, about 40km north-west of central Sydney.

An Australian-based Catholic priest has criticised the large amount of money being spent on World Youth Day, calling it an embarrassment and a scandal for the Catholic church.

Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims are expected in Australia for the five-day event, which is expected to cost about €80m.

Fr Peter Confeggi said the money could be better spent on struggling parishes and on helping homeless people in Australia.

About 300 young Irish people are due to fly out to Sydney today to attend the event.

Australia is one of the least religious nations in the western world, according to research published last week.

52% of Australians never or very seldom visit a church, mosque, synagogue or temple for religious reasons.

The international survey carried out by Germany's Bertelsmann Foundation showed that one in four of Australia's 21m people classify themselves as deeply religious, but 28% are not at all religious, while another 44% say religion does not play a central role in their lives.