.- Earlier today, the Vatican released Pope Benedict’s official schedule for his August trip to Cologne, Germany for the 20th World Youth Day. His visit will include visits with civic and religious leaders as well as massive celebrations with over a million young people from around the world. The Vatican said that after departing Rome's Ciampino airport at 10 a.m. on Thursday, August 18, the Holy Father should land at the Cologne/Bonn International airport by noontime. There, he will attend a brief welcome ceremony before traveling by car to he archbishopric of Cologne.
Later in the afternoon, he will board a boat at the Rodenkirchenbrucke wharf, which will take him down the Rhine river to the Rheinwiesen wharf where he will be welcomed by the first groups of young people. He will then return to Cologne for the evening, after visiting the historic cathedral.
Friday’s schedule includes a short visit with Horst Kohler, president of the Federal Republic of Germany--which is home to over 27 million Catholics--whom the Holy Father will meet at 10:30 am at the Villa Hammerschmidt in Bonn, where the Pope formerly taught theology.
By noontime, he is due back in Cologne to visit the synagogue and at 1 p.m. will return to the archbishopric for lunch with a group of young people. At 5 p.m. he will meet seminarians at the church of St. Pantaleon in Cologne before returning to the archbishopric to participate in an ecumenical meeting.
On Saturday, Pope Benedict will again celebrate a private Mass in the archbishopric, followed by audiences with various political and civil leaders including, Gerhard Schroeder, federal chancellor; Wolfgang Thierse, president of the parliament; Angela Merkel, president of the CDU (Christian Democratic Union); Jurgen Ruttgers, minister president of North Rhine Westphalia, and a number of local authorities.
At 6 p.m. he will meet representatives of Muslim communities before traveling by car to the large open grounds of Marienfeld where he will join young people in a vigil scheduled to last until 10.30 p.m.
At 10 a.m. on Sunday, the Pope will be back at Marienfeld, to celebrate the huge open air Mass and pray the Angelus. After lunch in the archbishopric he will go on foot to the "Piussaal" of the seminary of Cologne where he will meet the bishops of the German Episcopal Conference.
Late Sunday afternoon, he will greet members of the organizing committee of WYD 2005, before traveling by car to the airport where the departure ceremony is due to be held at 6.45 p.m.
From here, the Pope end his whirlwind trip and board his aircraft bound for Rome.