VATICAN CITY, JUL 19, 2005 (VIS) - "I wish formally to announce that the next World Youth Day will take place in 2005 in Cologne, Germany. In the great cathedral of Cologne the relics of the Magi, the Wise Men from the East who followed the star which led them to Christ, are honored."
With these words, pronounced during the Angelus at the 19th World Youth Day (WYD) in Toronto, Canada, in 2002, John Paul II announced the next pilgrimage of young people from all over the world. WYDs were established in 1984, the Holy Year of Redemption, to reaffirm the Church's interest in youth. This year, the young people meeting in Cologne from August 16 to 21 will consider the theme: "We have come to worship Him," the words with which the Wise Men of the Gospel of St. Matthew reveal the reason for their own pilgrimage.
The fact that the 20th WYD is being held in Cologne is also associated with a desire expressed by John Paul II to Cardinal Joachim Meisner, archbishop of that city, during the WYD held in Paris in 1997. "The Pope told me he felt it appropriate that one of the first WYDs of the new millennium should be held in Cologne," Cardinal Meisner recalls, "because last century Germany witnessed some terrible disasters for humanity, and it is right that it should now witness a great sign of hope."
The first significant event of this 20th World Youth Day began on Palm Sunday 2003 when a delegation of Canadian youth gave the cross that symbolizes WYDs to a group of German young people. A year later, the cross and the Marian image of 'Salus Populi Romani' began a journey that, passing through all the dioceses of Germany, will end in Cologne on August 16.
Benedict XVI's visit to Cologne will be his first outside Italy. The Pope will meet the young people (around a million according to the WYD organizers) on August 18. On the evening of August 19, he will participate in the Way of the Cross; on August 20 he will join the participants in a prayer vigil, and on August 21 he will celebrate the event's closing Mass. The altar at which he is due to celebrate stands on a hill overlooking a large field where the pilgrims will gather. The hill itself is manmade, composed of earth from all the countries of the world brought by young people who have participated in the preparatory meetings for this WYD.
During the WYD, the famous reliquary of the Wise Men will be placed behind the altar in the cathedral, as it used to be in the Middle Ages, so the pilgrims can see it as they pass and so, in some way, take away with them the blessing of the Three Kings of the East.
Another feature of the WYD in Cologne will be a large mosaic depicting the face of John Paul II composed of photographs sent in by young people from all over the world.
Benedict XVI's program for the days he will spend in Cologne also includes a visit to the synagogue and various meetings with the German civil and religious authorities. He will also travel to Bonn, where he lived from 1959 to 1963 when he taught theology at the city's university. In Bonn he is scheduled to meet Horst Koehler, president of Germany.
According to the latest information, 7,000 priests and 700 bishops will travel to Cologne where they will impart catechesis in the mornings, hear confessions, and celebrate the Eucharist in the evenings.
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