Pope Says He Hopes to Attend World Youth Day 2005

Meets with University Students After Ending His Weeklong Retreat

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 16, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II, whose health in recent weeks is noticeably improved, met with European university students and told them he is preparing for World Youth Day 2005 in Germany.



"I thank the cardinal of Cologne, Joachim Meisner, for his invitation, as I am certain that this invitation is addressed also to me, although as you see, I am no longer that young," the Pope said Saturday, wringing loud applause from his young audience in Paul VI Hall.

The Holy Father prayed the rosary with thousands of students on hand. The event marked the resumption of his public engagements, after a week of Lenten Spiritual Exercises.

Thousands of youths in Cologne; Krakow, Poland; Fatima, Portugal; Uppsala, Sweden; Bratislava, Slovakia; and Vienna, Austria, heard him live through a television connection.

"Christian young people are called to proclaim their witness to Christ and to be architects of unity in diversity, of freedom in truth and of peace in justice, a peace of which the world is in particular need," he said during his address.

The Pope also asked the students to be faithful "to the spiritual and moral principles that inspired the fathers of European unification."

He pointed out that Europe is living through an important time in its history, and because of this, young people should make their contribution of aspirations and ideals, study, work and "generous dedication."

A smiling John Paul II also joked about the power of television, assuring his listeners that it allows him to control the cardinals "at a distance," such as Krakow's prince of the Church, who appeared on live TV during the event.

The Pope invited the students to participate in a rosary on April 10, an "occasion of prayer and celebration" in St. Peter's Square, so that "the destiny of the world may change."