.- On Friday, Catholics around the world will begin the final forty-day countdown before the 11th annual World Youth Day celebration, and the official WYD pilgrimage cross will begin its final push toward the German city of Cologne.
The eyes of the world will be on Cologne next month as Pope Benedict takes part in the celebration--his first major event since his election as pontiff, and one which many think will shape the direction of his papacy.
A number of young people accompanied by their bishops are scheduled to carry the pilgrimage cross, relay-style, during the final stage of its European journey, called “Kreuzspuren” (in the footsteps of the Cross) from Dresden, Germany to Cologne.
The group plans to travel the last 750 km in a spirit of the Three Wise Men who traveled to honor the infant Jesus in Bethlehem, the remains of whom are preserved in the Cathedral of Cologne.
The cross is scheduled to travel almost exclusively on old pilgrimage paths. According to the Fides news service, from Dresden to Vacha the young pilgrims will travel by way of the Via Regia, and from Vacha to Colonia they will take the St Elisabeth Way and the St James Way, which if continued upon, would lead all the way to Compostela in Spain.
The 11th annual World Youth Day will commence on August 11th and continue through the 21st.