COLOGNE, Germany, AUG. 18, 2005 (Zenit.org).- On arriving in Germany, Benedict XVI expressed the hope that World Youth Day will help his country to rediscover the Christian roots of its spiritual heritage.
The Pope was welcomed on arrival today at Konrad Adenauer Airport by German President Horst Köhler, as well as by Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, cardinals and bishops representing the Church in Germany, and youths attending World Youth Day.
“The meeting of many young people with the Successor of Peter is a sign of the vitality of the Church. I am happy to be with them, to confirm their faith and to enliven their hope,” said the Bavarian-born Benedict XVI, on his first international trip since his election to the papacy.
“At the same time, I am sure that I will also receive something from them, especially from their enthusiasm, their sensitivity and their readiness to face the challenges of the future,” the 78-year-old Pontiff added as he buffeted by a strong wind.
The Pope explained that “all believers, and young people in particular, have been called to set out on the journey of life in search of truth, justice and love.”
“The ultimate goal of the journey can only be found through an encounter with Christ, an encounter which cannot take place without faith,” he noted.
The Pope continued: “Along this interior journey we can be guided by the many signs with which a long and rich Christian tradition has indelibly marked this land of Germany: from great historical monuments to countless works of art found throughout the country, from documents preserved in libraries to lively popular traditions, from philosophical inquiry to the theological reflection of her many great thinkers, from the spiritual traditions to the mystical experience of a vast array of saints.”
The Pope was interrupted by applause on several occasions.
Shortly before, President Köhler acknowledged in his welcome address: “Even as a Protestant I can say that we are very much moved by the fact that a German, one of us, has become Pope.”
The German head of state added that Benedict XVI’s “election to the papacy is of historic significance.”
“Following the Pope from Poland, the first country to be invaded by Germany during the Second World War, a member of the so-called flak helper generation has now been chosen as St. Peter’s Successor,” he continued. “This is for me a source of confidence — 60 years after the end of the inhuman and ungodly ideology which prevailed in Germany.”
Köhler added: “People around the world have also perceived it as a sign of reconciliation. Let me share a secret with you — only a few minutes after your election, the Polish President Kwasniewski was the first to phone me and congratulate us.”
On greeting the president, after his long and profound address, the Pope said jokingly: “I didn’t know that a president was also a theologian.” Not only did Köhler smile but also Chancellor Schröder, wringing the applause of young people.
The Holy Father ended his address saying: “May God protect the Federal Republic of Germany!”