Benedict XVI hopes this week's World Youth Day in Cologne will renew the faith of European Christians, who are in a state of "self-accusation," he said in the first interview of his pontificate.
The pope's already omnipresent in Cologne
In the interview with Radio Vatican's German service, the pope said the objective of the event is to create "a wave of new faith among young people, especially the youth in Germany and Europe."
There are still large Christian institutions in Germany "(...) but there is also a great fatigue and we are so concerned with structural questions that the zest and the joy of faith are missing," he said.
"If this zest, this joy, to know Christ would come alive again and give the Church in Germany and Europe a new dynamic, then I think the aim of World Youth Day would be achieved."
Benedict hopes the mood will be as cheerful as in Toronto in 2002
The pope added that he hoped the event, which hundreds of thousands of young pilgrims are expected to attend, will "give the old continent, the host, a new impulse and help us so that we don't only see the sick, the tired and the missed opportunities in European history, because, after all, we are in a state of self-pity and self-accusation."
Breathi n g i n the Rhi n ela n d
Asked whether he was happy that his first trip abroad would lead him to his native Germany, Benedict said he was looking forward to again breathe in the character of the Rhineland and cosmopolitan Cologne.
Cologne's cathedral sits on the Rhine river
"I spent many nice years there," said Benedict, who taught at nearby Bonn University from 1959 to 1963. "I'm happy that providence wanted my first trip abroad to take me to Germany. I would not have dared to arrange that. But when the dear Lord makes it happen, one can be happy about it."
Benedict added that he was also glad his first trip abroad was to attend a gathering of young Christians.
"I want to show them it's beautiful to be a Christian," he said. "Many people think Christianity is a bunch of rules, prohibitions and dogmas you have to follow and therefore it's a heavy load. The wisdom of faith is not concerned with knowing lots of details...but knowing above and beyond the details what life is all about, how to live it and how to shape the future...(Faith) is not stale food we've had for 2,000 years and warm up again and again."
No grou n d-breaki n g n ews
Asked whether he would also try and move on bringing Catholics and Protestants closer together during the event, Benedict said that no one should expect ground-breaking decisions to be made in the coming days.
Cardinal Walter Kasper (center), Protestant Bishop Martin Heim and Greek-Orthodox Metropolit Augustinos celebrate an ecumenical mass in 2003
"We won't have much time because the daily schedule is very full," he said. "But we'll have some time to think about how things should go forward."
The pope is expected to arrive in Cologne on Thursday and will conclude his visit with a mass on Sunday.
Disclaimer: Deutsche Welle is a media partner of World Youth Day 2005.