Young people from all over the world are gathered in a huge field near the German city of Cologne, singing and dancing and waiting for the pope to celebrate the Roman Catholic Church's 20th World Youth Day.

From the early hours of the morning, hundreds-of-thousands of young people have been making their way to a huge field at Marienfeld, a former open-pit coal mine. That's where the pope will be holding a vigil Saturday night and a mass on Sunday.

They're carrying guitars, flags, sleeping bags and backpacks with everything they may need. They will be spending the night together, singing and praying. These young people have come from countries all over the world.

The music began early, as the first crowds of youngsters started to arrive. Volunteers handed out bread, candles and rain-jackets, as dark clouds gathered overhead.

"It's great. It's just the weather is a bit of a problem, but it's fantastic," said 17-year-old Melissa Bogosi, on her first trip outside of her country, Namibia. Her friend, Fabiola Katjipu, is 21 years old, and says she is honored to be here. Both are excited to meet the pope, even though they know they will only see him from a distance.

"I would like the pope to talk about forgiveness, as there's a lot of war and things going on in the world, yeah, and to encourage the young people to attend masses," said Ms. Katjipu.

These youngsters say it is incredible to see just how many young people have turned out for this 20th World Youth Day. They are hoping to hear words of guidance from the pope.

Stephen Colagiovanni is from Fresno, California. He is convinced the youth have an important role to play in tomorrow's world.

"We really need to be a light to the world because of all the hard times we are going through right now," he said. "And, the youth are the ones coming out, and the youth are the future of the church, and the youth are the church. So, we need to stand up for all we believe in, and go up there, and spread the word of God."

Thousands of emergency personnel, first aid volunteers and security officials have been deployed for the World Youth Day festival. Organizers say, up to a million people could turn out to see the pope.

Pope Benedict has come to his native Germany on the first trip of his papacy. This morning, he met with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and the opposition leader.