VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 30, 2009 ( Benedict XVI is characterizing his Saturday-Monday trip to the Czech Republic as a "pilgrimage" and a "mission."

The Pope gave this evaluation of the trip today when he dedicated the general audience in St. Peter's Square to reflect on his 13th international journey.

"It was a pilgrimage," he explained, "on account of the many saints who bore witness to Christ in the Czech lands through their holy lives, and it was a mission because, at the present time, Europe needs to rediscover the joy and hope that come from following the Lord Jesus."

"I pray that our liturgical celebrations in Prague’s magnificent Cathedral, in Brno and in Stara Boleslav will have served to deepen the faith and enkindle the Christian commitment of the people of Central Europe, especially the young," the Holy Father said. 

The Czech Republic is the most secular nation in Europe, with nearly 60% of the people declaring themselves unaffiliated with any religion.

The Pontiff's three-day trip included a visit to the Infant of Prague, two public Masses, a meeting with youth, an ecumenical encounter, and a discourse to the world of academia and culture. 

About this last meeting, Benedict XVI said today: "It was a pleasure to come together with university rectors and leading figures from the world of culture. I spoke with them of the need for scholarship to be rooted in truth, an integral truth that shuns the limitations of relativism and determinism."

"I ask all of you to join me in praying that this visit may bear abundant spiritual fruit for the Czech people," the Pope concluded, "and for the unity and peace of the whole continent of Europe."