.- More than 23,000 young people and 70 bishops from the United States will attend the first World Youth Day (WYD) with a new Pope in Cologne, Germany, this summer.
Pope Benedict XVI has stated that he will attend WYD, scheduled for Aug. 16-21. It is expected to be his first foreign trip as Pope. He will celebrate the closing mass, Aug. 21, at Marienfeld, about 10 miles southwest of Cologne.
There are currently more than 325,000 young people from around the world registered for the event and 31,000 WYD volunteers, mostly from Germany. The German bishops are hoping for 400,000 registrants. The number of volunteers has already surpassed the original goal of 20,000.
There are currently 833 American groups registered, representing 96 percent of states and 81 percent of dioceses and eparchies.
Of the U.S. pilgrims, 5,000 will participate in the diocesan Days of Encounter, held in different dioceses throughout Germany, from Aug. 11-15. The Days of Encounter provide an opportunity for youth to learn about the Church in Germany, to meet and to pray with German Catholics.
Pilgrims will also be invited to volunteer in a social project on the Day of Social Engagement, Aug. 12.
World Youth Day was started by Pope John Paul II in 1985.