Benedict XVI: Youths from all over the world, come to Cologne!

The World Youth Day, which the pontiff will attend from 18 to 21 August, is a "shared pilgrimage to the source of faith",  "a privileged encounter with Christ". Benedict XVI entrusts to Mary and St Patrick the end of armed conflict in northern Ireland.

Castel Gandolfo (AsiaNews) – In the first Angelus from the Villa Pontifica of Castel Gandolfo in the Castelli Romani, Pope Benedict XVI paved the way for his imminent summer commitments, especially the World Youth Day (WYD) in Cologne. Addressing thousands of pilgrims gathered in the internal courtyard from his balcony, the pontiff invited "all youths who are believers around the entire world, even those who will not be able to take part in such an extraordinary ecclesial event, to unite a shared spiritual pilgrimage to the source of our faith". The WYD was born of an initiative of John Paul II: his meetings drew millions of youths of different nationalities to many capitals of the world. It was often defined "a Catholic Woodstock". In reality, it is a week full of encounters, testimonies, and prayers. The WYD at Tor Vergata in 2000 and the one in Manila (five million people) in 1995 have gone down in history. Pope Benedict highlighted: the WYD "is a privileged encounter with Christ, in the full knowledge that only He offers to human beings fullness of life, of joy and of love".

At the end of the reflection and Marian prayer, the pontiff greeted pilgrims in various languages (including Ukranian). But first he gave a greeting and expressed his joy for the decision of the IRA to renounce armed conflict.

Here are the words of the Pope:

Dear friends,

After the days spent in the mountains, in Valle d'Aosta, I am happy today to be here among you, dear Castellani, who are always so hospitable towards the Pope. I greet you all with affection, starting with the Bishop of Albano, the parish priest and other priests of Castel Gandolfo.

I greet the mayor, the administration of the municipality and other authorities present, and I extend my affectionate thoughts to the Director and personnel of the Ville Pontificie, as I do the rest of the entire population of this smiling and serene small city. A particularly warm greeting goes to pilgrims who have come from so many places to visit me. It is my first summer stay here at Castel Gandolfo: I thank you for your joyful welcome which you extended to me last Thursday and which is confirmed today.

The 20th World Youth Day is drawing near. It will take place in Cologne, and God willing, I will also participate – no longer young, but young at heart – from Thursday 18 to Sunday 21 August. In the coming days, from all parts of Europe and the world, groups of youths are traveling towards Germany, following the example of the holy magi, "Come let us adore him" (Mt 2,2). I want to invite all young believers of the whole world, even those who cannot come to take part in this extraordinary ecclesial event, to unite in a shared spiritual pilgrimage to the source of our faith. Thanks to the happy intuition of the much-loved Pope John Paul II, the World Youth Day is a privileged encounter with Christ, in the full knowledge that only He can offer to human beings fullness of life, joy and love. Each Christian is called to enter into deep communion with the crucified and resurrected Lord, to adore him in prayer, in meditation and above all through devoted participation in the Eucharist, at least on Sunday, the little "weekly Sunday". In this way, one will truly become his disciple, ready to announce and testify at every moment to the beauty and reviving strength of the Gospel.

Virgin Mother of the Redeemer, who in the month of August we remember in the Assumption to Heaven, watch over those who are preparing to participate in the World Youth Day. You, who always go before us in the pilgrimage of faith, guide especially youths who are in search of true good and authentic joy. 

After the prayer, the pope added:

As you know, in recent days, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) of Ireland announced that it formally ordered the end of armed conflict in favour of the exclusive use of peaceful negotiations. This is beautiful news, which contrasts the sorrowful incidents which we daily witnesses in so many parts of the world, and which rightly has led to satisfaction and hope in that island and the entire international community. From my part, I am particularly proud to unite myself to such feelings. And I encourage all without exception to continue along the way mapped ahead with courage, and to take further steps which allow for the strengthening of mutual faith, and which encourage reconciliation and consolidate negotiations towards just and durable peace. 

I do so with the same vigour employed by my venerated Predecessor John Paul II in Drogheda, in September 1979, when he implored for departure from the path of violence and a return to the road of peace. To the intercession of the Most Holy Mary, to St Patrick and to all the saints of Ireland, we entrust our shared prayer for this intercession.

At the end, during the greetings, the crowd literally burst into singing and applause and cries: the pontiff joked and appreciated the enthusiasm of pilgrims.

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