Benedict arrives in native Germany
Aug. 18 (CWNews.com) - Pope Benedict XVI arrived at the
Bonn/Cologne airport just before noon today, beginning
the first foreign trip of his pontificate and preparing
for his first appearance as Pontiff at World Youth Day.
Speaking to reporters who accompanied him on the flight
from Rome, the Holy Father said that he was already
feeling the emotions of a return trip to his native
Germany, and looking forward to meeting with WYD
participants. "It's an extraordinary event when the
youth of all parts of the world and all cultures come
together in unity in the search for truth, unity in the
love of Jesus Christ," he said.
As he arrived in Germany, amid very heavy airport
security, the Pope was warmly applauded by young people,
who had filled several buses for the trip to greet the
Pontiff. Crowds of young people had arrived earlier in
the morning, pressing against barriers at the airport as
they awaited the arrival of the Alitalia jet carrying
the Holy Father. As the time of his scheduled flight
drew closer, the chant of "Benedetto" arose
repeatedly from the crowd-- composed mostly of German
youths, with many Italians as well.
Shortly before noon, local political and religious
leaders arrived as well, preparing for a formal greeting
ceremony. Cardinals Joachim Meisner and Karl Lehmann
were on hand, along with President Horst Kohler of the
German republic and various other dignitaries.
When the flight touched down-- to new shouts of "Benedetto"--
the journalists on the flight were allowed to exit
through a rear door before Pope Benedict made his
appearance at the front.
"Welcome home; welcome to Germany," President Kohler
said when he and the Pope had taken their place at a
pair of microphones set up for the welcoming ceremony.
Kohler remarked that "in this era marked by the fear of
terrorism and violence done for supposed religious
motives, it is particularly good to have the experience
of faith and religion as supporting peace and humanity."
He paid tribute to "the powerful witness of a humane
faith, respectful of man-- a faith that can affirm that
we are all children of God and share in a single world."
The German leader's long introductory talk was warmly
applauded, but the applause built to a crescendo as the
Pope prepared to speak.
"With great joy I find myself, for the first time since
my election to the chair of St. Peter, in my beloved
homeland," Pope Benedict said. "I thank God, who has
made it possible for me to begin my pastoral trips
outside Italy with this visit to the land of my birth."
The Pope's talk was repeatedly interrupted by applause,
and he was forced to gesture for quiet, smiling, in
order to continue.
After paying homage to Pope John Paul II as the
"unforgettable" central figure in every previous World
Youth Day, Pope Benedict thanked the German organizers
of this year's event, and the civic authorities whose
cooperation has made it possible.
Next the Holy Father spoke of the "rich patrimony of
Germany," which "even today, in the heart of Europe,
bears witness to the fecundity of the faith and the
Christian tradition." He mentioned some of the great
Christian witnesses of the region around Cologne,
including St. Boniface, St. Ursula, St. Albert the
Great, and St. Theresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith
Stein). The 20th WYD in Cologne, he said, would be a new
"sign of the Church's vitality" in Germany.
As he concluded his introductory remarks, the Pope asked
his listeners to pray for the success of World Youth Day
and for the future of the Church in Germany. He prayed,
too, for the host nation; "God protect the Federal
Republic of Germany," he said.