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Pope Meets with Protestant, Orthodox Church Members in Cologne

Pope Benedict held an ecumenical meeting in Cologne Friday with members of the Protestant and Orthodox Churches. He underscored the Roman Catholic Church's goal of full Christian unity. The pope is on his first official visit abroad for a gathering of Christian youth from around the world.

On his second day in Cologne, after a morning meeting with Jews in the city's synagogue, Pope Benedict focused his attention on reaching out to members of other Christian churches.

The pope met around 30 representatives of other Christian denominations in Germany at the Archbishop's residence. He said that the goal of the Roman Catholic Church is full and visible Christian unity.

Pope Benedict did not outline a program to move ahead along this path, but said he expected further concrete steps to bring Christians closer together. He stressed it is essential at present to carry on dialogue with sincerity and realism, with patience and perseverance.

He also said Christian unity does not mean uniformity in all expressions of theology and spirituality, in liturgical forms and in discipline.

After the meeting, representatives of the Orthodox and Protestant churches praised the pope's words and said they were grateful for the opportunity to continue dialogue on the road to ecumenism.

Earlier, the pope held a separate meeting with seminarians in the Church of Saint Pantaleon. Hundreds were waiting for him under the rain as he arrived in his glass-covered pope mobile.

Young people and faithful stretched out their hands hoping to touch the pope as he walked into the church. Some cheered, other took photos.

The pope told the seminarians their seminary years are a time of preparing for their mission, a time of journeying, of exploration, but above all of discovering Christ.

"It is only when a young man has had a personal experience of Christ that he can truly understand the Lord's will and consequently his own vocation," he said.

Pope Benedict meets German political and civilian authorities Saturday morning. The pope is also scheduled to hold a meeting with the Muslim community before joining young people for an evening vigil.