WASHINGTON (June 17, 2005) – Over 23,000 young pilgrims and 70 bishops from the United States will attend the twentieth World Youth Day to be held in Cologne, Germany, August 16-21.
Pope Benedict XVI will attend the event which is expected to be his first foreign trip as pope.
There are currently 833 groups signed up, representing 96 percent of states and 81 percent of dioceses and eparchies in the United States. These youth will be joined by an additional 300,000 young people from around the world presently registered for the event.
The German Bishops' Conference has set a goal of 400,000 registrants and 600 bishops. In addition there will be over 20,000 volunteers deployed by the World Youth Day organizers to assist pilgrims and bishops throughout the entire program.
The World Youth Day program includes Masses, a welcome by the Pope, vigils and a closing Mass. Throughout the three days there also will be morning catechetical sessions, a pilgrimage to the cathedral in Cologne, a youth festival and other activities planned by each local group.
Five thousand youth from the United States also will participate in the diocesan Days of Encounter to be held in Cologne from August 11-15. The Days of Encounter provide an opportunity for youth to participate in Mass and other prayers and to enjoy local attractions. The highlight of the Days of Encounter program is the Day of Social Engagement on August 12. This day provides the chance for youth to join in a number of social projects that are part of a nationwide campaign.
World Youth Day, started by Pope John Paul II in 1985, is intended for young people ages 16-30. The first official World Youth Day was held in Rome in 1986. Since then World Youth Days have taken place every two or three years in a different central location around the world.
At the end of the event, Pope Benedict XVI will preside over the closing Mass on Sunday morning at Marienfeld, about 10 miles southwest of Cologne.