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Benedict XVI's Address on Arrival in Germany

"A Sign of the Church's Vitality"

COLOGNE, Germany, AUG. 19, 2005 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today on his arrival at the Cologne-Bonn airport, after being greeted by German President Horst Köhler.

* * *

Mr. President,
Distinguished Political and Civil Authorities,
Your Eminences and Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Citizens of the Federal Republic,
My Dear Young People!

With deep joy I find myself for the first time after my election to the Chair of Peter in my beloved homeland, in Germany. With deep emotion I thank God who has enabled me to begin my pastoral visits outside Italy with this visit to the nation of my birth. I have come to Cologne for the 20th World Youth Day, which had already been planned by my predecessor, the unforgettable Pope John Paul II.

I am sincerely grateful to all present for the warm welcome given to me. My respectful greeting goes first to the president of the Federal Republic, Mr. Horst Köhler, whom I thank for the gracious words of welcome which he addressed to me in the name of all the citizens of the Federal Republic of Germany. I also express my gratitude to the representatives of the government, the members of the diplomatic corps and the civil and military authorities. With fraternal affection I greet the pastor of the Archdiocese of Cologne, Cardinal Joachim Meisner. My greeting also goes to the other bishops, the priests, men and women religious, and to all those engaged in various pastoral activities in the German-speaking dioceses. At this moment I also greet with affection all those living in the different Länder of the Federal Republic of Germany.

In these days of intense preparation for the World Youth Day, the dioceses of Germany, and the diocese and city of Cologne in particular, have been enlivened by the presence of very many young people from different parts of the world. I wish to thank all those who have so competently and generously helped to organize this worldwide ecclesial event. I am grateful to the parishes, religious institutes, associations, civil organizations and the many individuals who have offered hospitality and so friendly a welcome to the thousands of pilgrims coming here from different continents. The Church in Germany and the people of the German Federal Republic can be proud of their long tradition of openness to the global community; among other things, this is seen in their many initiatives of solidarity, particularly on behalf of developing countries.

In this spirit of esteem and acceptance toward all those who come from different cultures and traditions, we are about to experience World Youth Day in Cologne. That so many young people have come to meet the Successor of Peter is a sign of the Church's vitality. I am happy to be with them, to confirm their faith and to enliven their hope. At the same time, I am sure that I will also receive something from them, especially from their enthusiasm, their sensitivity and their readiness to face the challenges of the future.

And so I greet the young people themselves, and all those who have welcomed them in these event-filled days. In addition to intense moments of prayer, reflection and celebration with them and with all those taking part in the various scheduled events, I will have an opportunity to meet the bishops, to whom even now I extend a warm greeting. I will also meet the representatives of the other churches and ecclesial communities, make a visit to the synagogue for a meeting with the Jewish community, and also welcome the representatives of some Islamic communities. These meetings are important steps along the journey of dialogue and cooperation in our shared commitment to building a more just and fraternal future, a future which is truly more human.

During this World Youth Day we will reflect together on the theme: "We Have Come To Worship Him" (Matthew 2:2). This is a precious opportunity for thinking more deeply about the meaning of life as a "pilgrimage," guided by a "star," in search of the Lord. Together we shall consider the Magi, who, coming from various distant lands, were among the first to recognize the promised Messiah in Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of the Virgin Mary, and to bow down in worship before him (cf. Matthew 2:1-12).

The ecclesial community and the city of Cologne have a special link with these emblematic figures. Like the Magi, all believers -- and young people in particular -- have been called to set out on the journey of life in search of truth, justice and love. The ultimate goal of the journey can only be found through an encounter with Christ, an encounter which cannot take place without faith.

Along this interior journey we can be guided by the many signs with which a long and rich Christian tradition has indelibly marked this land of Germany: from ...

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