Pope Benedict makes his first official foreign trip Thursday when he returns to his native Germany for World Youth Day.

Hundreds of thousands of young Catholics from about 200 nations are in the city of Cologne to dance, sing, pray, and talk about the meaning of religion in their lives.

They are also eagerly waiting for their first live glance at their new spiritual leader.

The pope has said he hopes the festival will inspire young people to embrace religion.

Pope Benedict also plans to visit a Cologne synagogue, meet with Muslims, and hold a huge open air mass Sunday.

Security is very tight in Cologne, with thousands of police on the ground and NATO-supplied planes patrolling the skies.

The late Pope John Paul founded World Youth Day 20 years ago.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP, Reuters.