Cheers as Pope arrives inGermany on first trip abroad

18th August 2005, Comments 0 comments

18 August 2005, COLOGNE, GERMANY - A cheering crowd sent up chants of "Benedetto" and performed Mexican waves as Pope Benedict XVI arrived in his "beloved" Germany Thursday at the start of his first trip abroad since he was elected head of the church in April.

18 August 2005

COLOGNE, GERMANY - A cheering crowd sent up chants of "Benedetto" and performed Mexican waves as Pope Benedict XVI arrived in his "beloved" Germany Thursday at the start of his first trip abroad since he was elected head of the church in April.

His four-day stay, to be spent entirely in the western city of Cologne, is dedicated to the hundreds of thousands of boisterous under-30 Catholics who have gathered in the city from round the world. There will also be meetings with Jewish and Muslim leaders.

Poised and speaking in a strong voice, the pope, 78, said, "The encounter of so many young people with the successor of St Peter is a sign of the vitality of the church.

"I am happy to be amongst young people, to support their faith and to put life in their hope. He said he would be receptive to the young and expected their "hope and courage" to inspire him to meet the "challenges of our time".

Italians behind a nearby security barrier sent up repeated cheers of "Benedetto", the pope's name in Italian. Security was tight, with police positioned throughout the airport to foil any mishap and all traffic brought to a standstill during the speeches.

After a momentary surprise when the wind snatched away his white skullcap, Benedict smiled broadly as he descended alone the steps of his chartered Alitalia plane to a red carpet.

The summer breeze whipped his silk cloak around his ears during the airport welcome.

Cheers interrupted him as he recited his thanks to all, right down to the ordinary Catholics who had shown "the almost forgotten virtue of hospitality" in accommodating pilgrims to this week's World Youth Day (WYD) in Cologne.

He closed his remarks with a prayer for his "beloved Fatherland Germany" before being driven into the central city to rest before a sailpast along the Rhine river later in the afternoon. Huge crowds are expected on the river bank for his first large-scale public encounter.

The several hundred pilgrims at the airport had already given him a foretaste of the sports style 'Mexican cheer' that has become the most audible feature of the rally. Also known as La Ola, the action requires a running line of people to shout and raise their arms.

Waving national and club flags, the pilgrims in T-shirts and strapless tops have been marching the Cologne streets since Tuesday, both praying in churches and dancing at rock concerts.

The former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said at the airport that his meetings with Jewish and Muslim leaders during his stay were important to "a joint commitment for a future focussed on humanity".

The country's largely ceremonial head of state, President Horst Koehler, had been the first to shake his hand on arrival. The new pope did not imitate the practice of his Polish predecessor, Pope John Paul II, in kissing the ground.

As German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder looked on, Koehler said Ratzinger's election had been historic, with a German of the generation that served as teenage home guards under the Nazis succeeding a pope from Poland, the first nation that the Nazis had invaded in 1939.

"This fact encourages me, 60 years after the end of the anti-human and anti-God ideology that reigned in Germany," said Koehler.

The Ratzinger memoirs say he was conscripted at age 17 into a schoolboy anti-aircraft-gun unit as a telephonist, then into a labour battalion and finally into a guard unit that did little more than march.

Benedict is to spend all four days of his visit in Cologne, this year's venue for the biennial WYD congress, held in a different location every two years and attended by Catholic church members aged 16-30.

With a top-level alert in place, Cologne airport remained closed for all take-offs and landings for nearly an hour after the pope's arrival.

With out-of-state forces helping, some 4,000 officers were on duty, both to protect the pope and to keep order among the 405,000 pilgrims waiting in the city for the pope to enter from the airport by car.

The Rhine, a busy river transport route, was to be shut down completely for several hours Thursday afternoon as the pope, after taking a rest, proceeded down the river in a catamaran ferry, blessing crowds on the riverbanks.

Near the downtown Cologne archiepiscopal palace where Benedict is staying during his four-day attendance at WYD, even pedestrians were being turned away at security roadblocks.

Police admitted they were caught off-guard by the volume of WYD participants using the city's main transportation hub, Cologne railway station, late Wednesday night after Christian rock concerts and other entertainment.

Several pilgrims collapsed from the crowding and the heat, and had to be passed over the heads of the crowds so they could be taken to first-aid stations. Ten were treated in hospital as out-patients.

Security guards had to bar many people from entering the huge station until trains had departed with the pilgrims waiting to return to their quarters in suburbs and nearby cities. Police said they had not expected the crowds to all meet up at the same time.

Benedict is the first ethnic German to serve as pope since Hadrian VI, who reigned nearly 500 years ago and came from Utrecht in the Netherlands. Dutch commentators dispute whether Hadrian should be considered German at all.


Subject: German news

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