Vatican City (AsiaNews) The pope has returned from the WYD in Cologne with a reflection and an evaluation. In his traditional Wednesday appointment for weekly catechesis, the pontiff talked of his experience in Germany, going over the various phases and significant points. Pilgrims from all over the world were present in Paul VI Hall, among them groups from Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Here is the address of Benedict XVI (translated by AsiaNews):
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As the much-loved John Paul II was in the habit of doing after each apostolic pilgrimage, today I too would like to go over with you the days spent in Cologne for the World Youth Day. Divine providence willed that my first pastoral voyage outside Italy would be right in my country of origin and that it should be for the great meeting of youth of the world, 20 years after the establishment of World Youth Day, a prophetic intuition of my unforgettable Predecessor. I have not stopped thanking God for the gift of this pilgrimage, of which I have grateful memories. My gratitude is on the one hand for all those who prepared each phase of the event with commitment and love: first of all, the Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Joachim Meisner, Cardinal Karl Lehmann, President of the Episcopal Conference and the bishops of Germany, with whom I spent the end of my visit. Once again I want to thank the authorities, organizations and volunteers who offered their contribution. I am also grateful to the people and communities from all parts of the world who supported the event through prayer and to the sick, who offered their suffering for the spiritual success of this important meeting.
The ideal embrace with youth participants of World Youth Day started on my arrival at the airport of Cologne/Bonn, and it grew steadily, with emotions becoming more charged in the crossing of the Rhine from the quay of Rodenkirchenerbrucke to Cologne, escorted by five other boat-loads representing the five continents. The stop in front of the Poller Rheinwiesen bank was striking: thousands and thousands of youth were waiting there, with whom I had the first official meeting, opportunely called "a feast of welcome" and which had as its motto the words of the Magi: "Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?" (Mt 2:2a). It was precisely the Magi who were the "guides" for those youthful pilgrims towards Christ. How significant it is that all this happened as we are reaching the end of the Year of the Eucharist desired by John Paul II! "We have come to worship him": the theme of the Meeting invited all to follow the Magi and to undertake an internal voyage of conversion together with them towards the Emmanuel, God among us, to know him, to meet him, to adore him and after having met and adored him, to leave again taking in our heart his light and his joy.
In Cologne the youth could deepen these spiritual themes on several occasions, and they felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to bear witness to Christ who promised us that he would remain truly present among us in the Eucharist until the end of the world. I think back to the times I had the joy of sharing with them, especially the Saturday night vigil and the Sunday closing celebration. Millions of youth from every corner of the earth joined in these striking manifestations of faith thanks to providential radio and television links. But I would to bring up a singular meeting, that with seminarians, youth called to a more radical following of Christ, Teacher and Shepherd. I wanted a specific time dedicated to them, even to highlight the typical vocational dimension of World Youth Day. More than a few priestly vocations and calls to the consecrated life have sprung up precisely during the World Youth Days, privileged organizations in which the Holy Spirit makes his call felt.
In the rich context of hope of the days in Cologne, the ecumenical meeting with representatives of other Churches and ecclesial communities was well placed. The role of Germany in ecumenical dialogue is important both because of the sad history of division as well as its significant part in the journey towards reconciliation. Furthermore, I hope that dialogue, a reciprocal exchange of gifts, will contribute so that the ordered and harmonious "symphony" which is catholic unity will grow and mature. From this perspective, the World Youth Day represents a valid ecumenical "laboratory". How not to relive with emotion the visit to the synagogue of Cologne, seat of the oldest community of German Jews? With our Hebrew brothers I commemorated Shoa, and the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Nazi concentration camps. This year is the fortieth anniversary of the Conciliar Declaration Nostra Aetate, which launched a new season of dialogue and spiritual solidarity between Jews and Christians, as well as respect for other great religious traditions. Among these Islam occupies a special place, as its followers worship the same God and they willingly retrace their steps to the Patriarch Abraham. For this reason, I wanted to meet representatives of some Muslim communities, to who I expressed the hopes and preoccupations of this difficult moment of history we are living, voicing the desire that fanaticism and violence may be eradicated and that together we may collaborate to defend human dignity and to safeguard fundamental rights always.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, from the heart of the "old" Europe, which in last century experienced horrendous conflicts and inhuman regimes, youth have relaunched the message of hope which does not deceive to mankind of our time, because it is founded on the Word of God made flesh in Jesus Christ, who died and resurrected for our salvation. In Cologne, youth met and worshipped Emmanuel in the mystery of the Eucharist and they better understood how the Church is a large family through which God creates a space of communion and unity between all continents, cultures and races, a "great group of pilgrims" led by Christ, the shining star which illuminates history. Jesus is our companion on the journey in the Eucharist and the Eucharist as I said in the homily at the closing celebration, adapting a well-known image from physics carries "nuclear fission" to the most hidden depths of the heart of the being. Only this intimate explosion of good which triumphs over evil can give life to those other transformations necessary to change the world. We pray now so that the youth may go from Cologne with the light of Christ, who is truth and love and that they may spread this everywhere. I entrust that with the help of the Holy Spirit and the prayer of the Virgin Mary, we will be able to witness a spring of hope in Germany, Europe and the whole world.