COLOGNE, Germany, AUG. 18, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI reminisced about his youth when he visited the Cologne Cathedral, in the culminating meeting of his first day in Germany as Pope.
After a festive welcome today on the banks of the Rhine River by throngs of young people who have arrived in the city for World Youth Day, the Holy Father visited the cathedral, historic symbol of this city.
On entering the church he greeted hundreds of mentally and physically handicapped youths, and then spent some time in prayer before the reliquary of the Wise Kings which, according to tradition, has been kept in the cathedral since 1164.
When leaving the church, after hearing the greeting of Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne, who had to speak over the noise of the enthusiastic young audience, the Holy Father began to speak spontaneously, sharing the memories that unite him to this city.
Benedict XVI said that when he was a professor of theology at Bonn University, he often came to Cologne. Here he forged lifetime friendships.
In particular, he mentioned Cardinal Joseph Frings (1887-1978), then archbishop of the city, who took him to Rome as a theological consultor to participate in the Second Vatican Council.
“I always feel at home in Cologne,” Benedict XVI said, mentioning that for a long time he has enjoyed the friendship of Cardinal Meisner, the No. 1 organizer of this World Youth Day.
The Pope recalled that Cologne has been the cradle and witness of great saints in the history of the Church in Germany. He said the city has given origin in recent times to great charitable initiatives, such as Misereor, Adveniat, Missio and Renovabis, which “make present Christ’s charity in all the continents.”
After the visit, the Holy Father paused at the tombs of Cardinal Frings and Cardinal Joseph Höffner (1906-1987), another past archbishop of Cologne, who was a pioneer in the promotion of the social doctrine of the Church. Cardinal Höffner recently received the honor of “Righteous Among the Nations,” offered by Israel to those who risked their lives to save Jews during World War II.
After the meeting, Benedict XVI returned to the archbishop’s resident in the city, which will be his headquarters over the next few days.