.- Welcomed by a cheering crowd along the banks of the Rhine river, Pope Benedict spoke for the first time to the youth describing himself as a pilgrim, along with the thousands of young people coming from around the world. After a brief welcome by representatives of the youth, present on the boat, he then greeted all those gathered underlining their common path towards Christ, and extending this greeting to “those among you who have not been baptized, and those of you who do not yet know Christ or have not yet found a home in his Church”, extending his call to non-believers.
Surrounded by an attentive audience, Pope Benedict expressed the importance of the Church “as the place where God's merciful love reaches out to all people. In the Church and through the Church you will meet Christ, who is waiting for you.”
Honoring the memory and the legacy of the founder of these youth gatherings, Pope John Paul II “who had the inspired idea of calling young people from all over the world to join in celebrating Christ, the one Redeemer of the human race.” Pope Benedict invited them to put his teaching into practice.
The example of the Magi on their journey to Bethlehem was set forth by the Pope, for “they withstood hardships and sacrifices, and never yielded to discouragement or the temptation to give up and go home”. Enumerating a list of essential questions on the meaning of life and its goal, he reminded, that it is in the Eucharist, center and core of the Christian life that we find Christ, the answer to these questions.
The Pope again wished to underline the essential character of the encounter with Christ, bringing us back to his first homily on St. Peter's Square. (April, 24 th ) “Christ takes from you nothing that is beautiful and great, but brings everything to perfection for the glory of God, the happiness of men and women, and the salvation of the world,” he added to this “! Let yourselves be surprised by Christ!”
He concluded this first speech, acknowledging the importance of the pilgrimage to venerate the relics, defining them as “traces of that invisible but real presence which sheds light upon the shadows of the world and reveals the Kingdom of Heaven in our midst” before inviting the crowd for his next appearance during the vigil that should take place on Saturday.
Pope Benedict then went then from the boat, walking to the Cathedral, amid an enthused crowd, to address the people waiting there, and to make his personal pilgrimage.
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