.- Pope Benedict XVI recalled today the gathering of hundreds of thousands of young people from around the world in Cologne, Germany, for World Youth Day last week.
“Young people from all cultures of the world gathered as pilgrims seeking Jesus Christ, whom we adore in the Eucharist,” the Pope said during his general audience today. “Together, they made a journey of inner conversion, coming to embrace and to know our Lord more intimately, in order to bear witness to his light and joy,” he continued.
The Pope arrived for his general audience today at the Vatican from his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.
It was Divine Providence that his first foreign pastoral visit was in his native country, the Pontiff, a native of Bavaria, commented. He credited the location of the 20th WYD in Germany to the “prophetic intuition of my unforgettable predecessor.” The WYD theme, “We have come to worship him,” was significant as the Year of the Eucharist is coming to a close, said Pope Benedict.
“In Cologne, the young people had several opportunities to expand on this theme and they felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to be witnesses to Christ, who in the Eucharist promised to remain truly present among us until the end of world,” he stated.
“In the heart of ‘old Europe’, which in the last century unfortunately experienced horrendous conflicts and inhuman regimes, the young people gave to the people of our time a message of hope that does not deceive because it is founded on the Word of God, made flesh in Jesus Christ, who died and rose again for our salvation,” the Pope said.
“In Cologne, the young people met and adored Emmanuel, God among us, in the mystery of the Eucharist and they better understood that the Church is a great family through which God establishes a place for communion and unity throughout all continents, cultures and races,” he added.
He said his meeting with about 1,000 seminarians at the Church of St. Pantaleon was of particular significance as these men are “called to a radical following of Jesus the shepherd and teacher.”
“World Youth Days have given rise to many vocations to the priesthood and religious life,” he said. “Let us pray that many more young adults will heed Christ’s call!”
During his first foreign trip, the 78-year-old pontiff also took the opportunity to meet with leaders of the Muslim, Jewish and other Christian communities. He met with leaders of the Christian community “with the hope that our continuing ecumenical dialogue will contribute to the goal of Christian unity,” he said.
His visit to the Synagogue of Cologne was one of “great emotion.” There, he recalled the Holocaust and the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps.
In his meeting with Muslim community leaders, he said he underlined the common need to “work together to eliminate fanaticism and violence and to defend the dignity all people while promoting fundamental human rights.”
He invited those present to pray for young people. “Bearing the light of Christ’s truth and love, may they witness to a springtime of hope in Germany, Europe and the whole world!” he said.
He greeted the English-speaking pilgrims present at the general audience, including groups from England, Ireland, Gibraltar, Malta, Japan, Taiwan and the United States.