Hundreds of thousands of young people from all over the world are streaming into Cologne to celebrate World Youth Day with the pope. It will be Pope Benedict's first trip home since he was elected. He says he wants to inject new enthusiasm and faith in Christians in the old continent.
Large groups of enthusiastic young people can be seen gathered in the streets of Cologne and outside its imposing gothic cathedral. The youngsters have been arriving from all over the world to take part in World Youth Day festivities with the Pope.
They have come on planes, on trains and on buses. You can see them carrying their backpacks with the logo of the 20th World Youth Day, which is being celebrated here in Cologne. They are waving their national flags. They strum their guitars, sing and dance.
Most of them are excited to have come to Germany for this occasion and are looking forward to the arrival of Pope Benedict. Sitting on the stairs leading up to the cathedral, the young enjoy meeting each other and share their hopes and concerns.
Inside the cathedral many are gathered in prayer.
Father Eric Cruz came with a group of seven youngsters from Saint Elizabeth's parish in New York. He says it is the fifth time he has taken part in a World Youth Day. He says it is exciting-but-tiring, as you organize for the day. Then the day arrives and he says it has all been worth it.
"Once you're here, it's a new life; first time for young people ever coming; the opportunity to gain the richness of the church, to see other young people throughout the world and just their glory; so spontaneous in the praise of God, wanting to be united and to share the faith and love with the other young people of the world," said Father Cruz. "It just elevates the experience beyond imagination or description."
Father Cruz says this meeting will be electric. This time it will be with a new pope. He says Pope John Paul, who died four months ago, will be missed, because he is the one who started this and was the real core and unity of the church.
It will be Pope Benedict's first trip home since his election. His predecessor had chosen the venue for this World Youth Day long ago, but the new pope decided to stick to the plan. He says it was a sign of destiny that it should take place in his own homeland.
Pope Benedict has said he wants to inject new enthusiasm and faith into Christians in the old continent. Although he has come to be here with young people, he will also pursue his plans to further dialogue with others. He will meet with Jews and visit a synagogue. He will also meet with leaders of other Christian churches and hold talks with Muslim leaders.
Security will be very tight for the pope's arrival. The German authorities say thousands of policemen have been deployed in the city and random checks will be carried out on participants. A no-fly zone will also be in place on the days the Pope is here and divers will check for underwater threats in the Rhine River, before the pope takes a boat ride on the day he arrives.