Pope Benedict XVI- Audiences
“World Youth Day in Cologne”
August 24, 2005
Just as beloved John Paul II used to do after
every Apostolic Pilgrimage, today I too would like to run through
with you the days I spent in Cologne for
World Youth Day.
Divine Providence determined that the
my first Apostolic Journey outside Italy
be in my native Country and that it take place on the occasion of
the great meeting of the world's young people, 20 years after the
establishment of World Youth Day, desired with prophetic insight by
my unforgettable Predecessor. After my return, I thank God from the
bottom of my heart for the gift of this pilgrimage, of which I shall
cherish beloved memories.
We all felt that
it was a gift of God. Of course, many people worked together, but in
the end the grace of this event was a gift from on high, from the
At the same time, I address my thanks to all
those who prepared and organized every phase of the meeting with
loving commitment: in the first place, Cardinal Joachim Meisner,
Archbishop of Cologne; Cardinal Karl Lehmann, President of the
Bishops' Conference; and
the Bishops of Germany, to whom I spoke at the very end of my Visit.
I would then
like once again to thank the Authorities, organizers and volunteers
who made their contribution. I am also grateful to the people and
communities in every part of the world who supported it with their
prayers, and to the sick, who offered up their sufferings for the
spiritual success of this important appointment.
My spiritual embrace of the young participants
of World Youth Day began with
my arrival at the Cologne/Bonn Airport and
continued, ever more filled with emotion, as we sailed down the
Rhine from the Rodenkirchenerbrücke Wharf to Cologne, escorted by
five other boats representing the five continents.
Then there was an evocative pause at the
Poller Rheinwiesen Wharf where thousands and thousands of young
people were already waiting. With them I had my first official
Meeting, appropriately called the "Welcome
Celebration" and whose motto was the
Magi's question: "Where is the newborn King of the Jews?" (Mt 2: 2).
The Magi themselves were the "guides" of those young pilgrims bound
for Christ, adorers of the mystery of his presence in the Eucharist.
How significant it is that all this has
occurred while we are on our way towards the conclusion of the
Year of the Eucharist, desired by John
Paul II! "We have come to worship him": the theme of the
Meeting invited everyone to follow the Wise Men in spirit and with
them to make an inner journey of conversion to Emmanuel,
God-with-us, in order to know him, encounter him and worship him,
and after meeting and adoring him, to set out anew, bearing his
light and his joy in our hearts, in our innermost depths.
In Cologne, the
young people had several opportunities to examine these important
spiritual topics deeply; they felt impelled by the Holy Spirit to be
enthusiastic and consistent witnesses of Christ, who promised to
remain truly present among us in the Eucharist until the end of the
I am thinking back to the various moments that
I had the joy of spending with them, especially
the Saturday Vigil and
the Concluding Celebration on Sunday.
Millions of other young people from every corner of the earth joined
us in these vivid expressions of faith, thanks to the providential
radio and television link-ups.
However, I would like here to recall a special
my encounter with the seminarians, young
men called to a more radical and personal following of Christ,
Teacher and Pastor. I wanted a specific moment to be devoted to
them, also to highlight the vocational dimension typical of
World Youth Days. In the past 20 years,
many vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life have been born
precisely during the World Youth Days, privileged occasions when the
Holy Spirit makes his call forcefully heard.
Ecumenical Meeting with representatives of the other Churches and
Ecclesial Communities fitted in very well
with the context of the Cologne Day, rich in hope. Germany's role in
ecumenical dialogue is important, both because of the sad history of
divisions and because of its important role in the journey of
I hope that
dialogue, as a reciprocal exchange of gifts and not only of words,
will also help increase and develop that orderly and harmonious
"symphony" which is Catholic unity. In this perspective, the World
Youth Days are an effective ecumenical "workshop".
And how can we fail to relive with emotion
the visit to the Synagogue of Cologne, the
home of the oldest Jewish Community in Germany? With my Jewish
brothers and sisters I commemorated the Shoah and the 60th
anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps.
This year is also the 40th anniversary of the
which has ushered in a new season of dialogue
and spiritual solidarity between Jews and Christians, as well as
esteem for the other great religious traditions. Islam occupies a
special place among them. Its followers worship the same God and
willingly refer to the Patriarch Abraham. That is why
I wanted to meet the representatives of some Muslim Communities,
to whom I expressed the hopes and worries of the rough time in
history that we are living through, in the hope that fanaticism and
violence will be uprooted and that we will always be able to work
together to defend human dignity and protect the fundamental rights
of men and women.
and sisters from the heart of the "old" Europe, which unfortunately
experienced in the past century horrendous conflicts and inhuman
regimes, the young people have relaunched for the humanity of our
time the message of hope that does not disappoint, for it is based
on the Word of God made flesh in Jesus Christ, who died and rose for
In Cologne, the
young people encountered and adored Emmanuel, God-with-us, in the
mystery of the Eucharist, and they came to understand better that
the Church is the great family through which God creates a space of
communion and unity between every continent, culture and race, a
family vaster than the world that knows limits and boundaries; a
"great band of pilgrims", so to speak, who walk together with
Christ, guided by him, the bright star that illumines history.
Jesus makes himself our traveling companion in
the Eucharist, and the Eucharist - as I said in my Homily at the
concluding celebration, borrowing from physics a well known image -
induces "nuclear fission" into the very heart of being (Homily,
Holy Mass, Marienfeld Esplanade, Cologne, 21 August 2005;
L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 24 August 2005,
p. 11). Only this innermost explosion of good that overcomes evil
can give life to other transformations that are necessary to change
May Jesus, the
face of the merciful Lord for every person, continue to light our
way, like the star that guided the Magi, and fill us with his joy.
Let us pray,
therefore, that the young people of Cologne will take home with
them, within them, the light of Christ, which is truth and love, and
spread it everywhere. I am confident that through the power of the
Holy Spirit and the motherly assistance of the Virgin Mary, we will
see a great springtime of hope in Germany, in Europe and throughout
I extend a warm
welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims here today, including
groups from England, Ireland, Gibraltar, Malta, Japan, Taiwan and
the United States of America. May you have a happy stay in Rome and
a safe return to your homes. Upon all of you, I invoke the peace and
joy of Jesus Christ our Lord!
usual, I address my thoughts to you, dear young people, dear
sick people and dear newly-weds. May the example of
the Apostle St Bartholomew, whom we are commemorating today, help
you look with trust to Christ, who is our light in difficulties, our
support in trials and our guide in every moment of life.
My thoughts now
go to the Regions of Europe hit in the past few days by floods or
fires, which have unfortunately claimed many victims and caused
immense damage. Many families have been left homeless and hundreds
of people must face tragic hardships.
As I invoke from
the Lord the eternal reward for those who have lost their lives, I
assure my spiritual closeness in affection and prayer to all who are
tried by these serious events, trusting that they will be sustained
by the common solidarity.
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