.- World Youth Day pilgrims are eager to see Pope Benedict XVI and hear his first message to them for the international gathering. “I’m happy that he has arrived” said Maria Ida Maroni. The 21 year-old Italian pilgrim is participating in her third World Youth Day. “Now that the Pope is here, I feel like we’re closer to living the World Youth Day experience.”
The Pope arrived in Cologne at noon today. He is expected to spend the late afternoon greeting the young pilgrims and the people of Cologne.
The Pope’s route is quite unique. He is expected to board a cruise ship close to the Rodenkirchener Bridge in the southern part of the city and sail north on the Rhine River for about two kilometers to the Zoobrücke Bridge.
WYD pilgrims have lined the shores of the Rhine since 10 a.m. this morning. At about 5 p.m., the Pope’s boat is expected to arrive in front of the Poll Rhine Meadows, where he will give his first address to the young people.
The boat will then continue to sail north. It will dock at 6 p.m., and the Pope will make his way to the Cologne Cathedral, where he will again address the youth from Roncalli Square. He is expected to return to his residence at 7 p.m.
Frederic Arnaud from the diocese of Lyon, France, said he and his five fellow pilgrims gave up on the idea of heading to the shores of the Rhine to catch a glimpse of the Pope.
“There are too many people there already,” said fellow pilgrim Marie Dechesne, 24. Instead, they decided to watch it all on the big screen in the Mediapark behind the Cologne Exhibition Stadium. It is one of five big screens set up in parks and plazas around the city.
Security for the Pope’s tour of the city is tight. All of the bridges to and from the city, except for two, are closed to motor and pedestrian traffic from 2 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Twenty-four armored limousines will accompany the Pope on his tour through the streets of the city. All passengers and journalists in the small press pool that will accompany the Pope on his cruise have undergone thorough security checks.