One million pilgrims at Pope's 'Woodstock'

The event was one of the largest Catholic celebrations Germany has witnessed. The vast crowd of flag-waving pilgrims gathered on the site of the Mass, a former open-cast mine on the outskirts of Cologne, was estimated at between 800,000 and a million.

Wearing a gold mitre and white and gold robes, Benedict XVI was greeted by waves of cheers as he appeared beneath a specially built transparent cupola resembling a flying saucer as the sun broke through a grey, cloud-filled sky.

Urging his audience to make wise use of the freedom God had given them, he told the crowd: "Freedom is not simply about enjoying life in total autonomy. It is rather about living by the measure of truth and goodness, so that we ourselves can become good."

The 78-year-old pontiff warned about the rise of consumerism which he said had led to a "strange forgetfulness of God". He called on young people to reject what he described as "do-it-yourself" religion. "Religion constructed on this basis cannot ultimately help us. Help people to discover the true star which points out the way to us: Jesus Christ."

The size of the crowd meant many who had spent the night camping out in the open were obliged to watch images of the Pope flashed up on huge video screens surrounding the site. As the pontiff approached in his tall, glassed-in popemobile, hymns rang out as thousands of priests clad in black and purple stood in line to participate in the Mass.

Cologne police admitted yesterday that they had been overwhelmed by the event. The sheer volume of people attending the celebrations forced closure of the city's main railway station. More than 57 people were treated for injuries and exhaustion on Saturday night after becoming immersed in the crush of pilgrims gathered at the site of the Mass.

The event - which was being described as the "Pope's Woodstock" in the German media yesterday - was the climax of Benedict XVI's four-day visit to his homeland to preside over the World Youth Day, a major Catholic celebration held in different countries every three years that was started by the late Pope John Paul II.

Before embarking on what was his first trip abroad since his election last April, the Pope said he hoped his visit would help spark "a new wave of faith among young people".

The visit had a special significance for Germans. The Pope, who was raised in Nazi Germany, was briefly a member of the Hitler Youth and served as a member of an anti-aircraft unit during the closing stages of the Second World War.

Horst Köhler, the German President, said the Vatican's choice of the former German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope was a sign of reconciliation between the Catholic Church and Germany 60 years after the end of the war.

During his visit, the Pope attended the Cologne synagogue where he publicly condemned the evils of the Nazi era and issued a stark warning about the rise of new anti-Semitism. But he declined to respond to Jewish leaders' demands that the Vatican throw open all its archives to reveal the extent of the Church's complicity with the Nazis during the Second World War.

On Saturday, in his first address to Islamic leaders, the Pope appealed to Muslims to help combat the spread of terrorism and said that the future depended on Christian-Muslim dialogue which could not be reduced to "an optional extra".

Although the Pope's visit received blanket coverage in the German media, Germans were vastly outnumbered by Catholics from Spain, France, Italy, Poland and the Americas attending the World Youth Day celebrations. Waning support for the Catholic Church in Germany was underlined by an opinion poll last week which found that Germans trusted the police and the country's largest cut-price supermarket chain more than Pope Benedict XVI.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
News
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower