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Benedict XVI Reflects on His Trip to Germany

"Young People Relaunched the Message of Hope"

VATICAN CITY, AUG. 25, 2005 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave at today's general audience, held in Paul VI Hall. The Pope reflected on his first foreign apostolic trip to Germany, for World Youth Day.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

As our beloved John Paul II used to do after every apostolic pilgrimage, today I would also like to review with you the days spent in Cologne on the occasion of World Youth Day. Divine Providence willed that my first pastoral trip outside of Italy should have, precisely as its object, my country of origin and that it should be on the occasion of the great meeting of young people of the world, 20 years after the institution of World Youth Day, established with prophetic intuition by my unforgettable Predecessor.

After my return, I thank God from the depth of my heart for the gift of this pilgrimage, of which I have fond memories. We all felt it was a gift from God. Of course, many collaborated, but in the end the grace of this meeting was a gift from on High, from the Lord. At the same time I am grateful to all those who, with commitment and love, prepared and organized this meeting in all its phases: in the first place, the archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Joachim Meisner; Cardinal Karl Lehmann, president of the episcopal conference, and the bishops of Germany, with whom I met, in fact, at the end of my visit.

Then I would like to thank the authorities, organizations and volunteers who made their contribution. I am also grateful to the persons and communities that, in every part of the world, sustained the meeting with prayer, and to the sick, who offered their suffering for the spiritual success of this important meeting.

The ideal embrace with young participants in the World Youth Day began from the moment of my arrival at the Cologne-Bonn airport and became ever more charged with emotions when sailing on the Rhine from the Rodenkirchenbruecke pier to Cologne escorted by five other vessels representing the five continents. Evocative, also, was the pause in front of the Poller Rheinwiesen wharf where thousands upon thousands of young people awaited, with whom I had the first official meeting, called appropriately "welcome festival" and which had as its motto the words of the Magi "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?" (Matthew 2:2a).

It was precisely the Magi who were the "guides" of those young pilgrims to Christ. How significant it is that all this took place as we prepare for the conclusion of the Eucharistic Year called by John Paul II! "We Have Come to Worship Him": The theme of the meeting invited everyone theoretically to follow the Magi, and to undertake together with them an interior journey of conversion to the Emmanuel, the God-with-us, to know him, meet him, adore him, and after meeting and adoring him, to then depart bearing in spirit, in the depth of our being, his light and joy.

In Cologne, young people had repeated opportunities to reflect profoundly on these spiritual themes and felt themselves driven by the Holy Spirit to be witnesses of Christ, who in the Eucharist has promised to remain really present among us until the end of the world. I recall the different moments that I had the joy of sharing with them, especially in the Saturday evening Vigil and Sunday's concluding celebration. Millions of other young people from all corners of the earth were joined to these thought-provoking manifestations of faith thanks to providential radio and television connections.

But I would like to recall here a singular meeting, the one with the seminarians, young men called to a more radical following of Christ, Teacher and Shepherd. I wished to have a specific time dedicated to them, to highlight also the vocational dimension typical of World Youth Day. Not a few vocations to the priesthood and to the consecrated life have flowered in these 20 years, privileged occasions in which the Holy Spirit makes his call heard.

Very well placed in the rich context of hope of the Cologne Day, was the ecumenical meeting with representatives of the other Churches and ecclesial communities. Germany's role in the ecumenical dialogue is important whether because of the sad history of divisions or the significant part played in the path of reconciliation. I hope, moreover, that the dialogue, as a reciprocal exchange of gifts and not just of words, will contribute to make that ordered and harmonious "symphony" grow, which is Catholic unity. In such a perspective, World Youth Day represents a valid ecumenical "laboratory."

And how can I not relive with emotion the visit to the Synagogue of Cologne, where the oldest Jewish community has its headquarters? With our Jewish brothers I remembered the Shoah and the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi ...

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