Cologne, Aug. 19, 2005 (CNA) - In a special meeting today with more than 500 seminarians at World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany, Pope Benedict XVI said the seminary years are a time of preparing for mission and a “springtime” in the life of a follower of Christ.

Pope Benedict wished to celebrate the vespers of this Friday, talking to the seminarians, addressing the mystery of vocations in the church, and giving them a special message on their mission.

Amid a colorful and joyful audience, and after listening to various testimonies, the first one by a seminarian, one by a young priest from Kazakhstan and finally one from a bishop of Quebec, all stressing on their personal encounter with Christ, and the way they answered the special call to serve him in his church.

The Pope seemingly moved by these testimonies, and smiling abundantly, then delivered his speech on vocations in the church in four different languages.

Pope Benedict spoke of the call to the priesthood and the seminarian’s search for Jesus like the journey of the Magi, the ongoing theme of the 20th WYD. “The Magi set out because of a deep desire which prompted them to leave everything and begin a journey. It was as though they had always been waiting for that star. It was as if the journey had always been a part of their destiny, and was finally about to begin.”

He described each of theses seminarians call as “the mystery of God’s call, the mystery of vocation. It is part of the life of every Christian, but it is particularly evident in those whom Christ asks to leave everything in order to follow him more closely” he said.

Referring to the years of preparation and formation all priest received prior to their ordination, he said “Such study can at times seem arduous, but it is an indispensable part of our encounter with Christ and our vocation to proclaim him. All this is aimed at shaping a steady and balanced personality, one capable of receiving validly and fulfilling responsibly the priestly mission.”

He urged the seminarians to turn to Mary often with confidence to help them learn about Jesus. “Mary teaches the seminarian to contemplate Jesus with the eyes of the heart and to make Jesus his very life,” he said.

Finally, drawing on a theme much liked by the Pope, he said “The secret of holiness is friendship with Christ and faithful obedience to his will,” the Pope continued. He cited different saints, who had stated that Christ was first and foremost in their lives. “May Christ be everything for you.”

He assured the seminarians of his affection and daily prayers and concluded, saying: “I bless all of you from my heart.”

Finally he entered the church of Saint Pantaleon, greeted by hundreds of seminarians, to reach his “papamobil”, amid the cheers and now traditional acclamation.