VATICAN CITY (AP) – Pope Benedict XVI voiced hope that his upcoming trip to his native Germany for a youth gathering would spur a new European wave of faith, to counter what he described as a spiritual “fatigue” on the traditionally Christian continent.

In the interview with Vatican Radio’s German edition broadcast Sunday, the pope also said “providence wanted my first trip abroad to take me to Germany.”

Benedict will fly to Cologne on Thursday to begin a four-day visit for World Youth Day, a Catholic jamboree of rallies and religious services with young people. His predecessor, Polish-born John Paul II, had announced the choice of Cologne for the event, which is held every couple of years in a different part of the world and draws hundreds of thousands of participants.

He said the goal of the event was “a wave of new faith among young people, especially the youth in Germany and Europe.”

In Germany, “many Christian things occur, but there is also a great fatigue, and we are so concerned with structural questions that the zest and the joy of faith are missing,” the pontiff said.

“If this zest, this joy, to know Christ would come alive again and give the Church in Germany and Europe a new dynamic, then I think the aim … would be achieved.”

Vatican Radio provided an English translation of the 15-minute interview, which was conducted in Castel Gandolfo, the summer palace in the Alban Hills outside of Rome.

Speaking about affluent, northern European countries, Benedict told Vatican Radio: “It is evident that many heavy burdens exist in our modern Western society, driving us away from Christianity.”

“Faith and God appear to be far away,” the pontiff said.

Benedict voiced hope that Cologne would spur the “old continent” to look beyond the “missed opportunities in European history” to “rediscover the truth, purity and greatness which gives us our future.” He did not say what he believed Europe had done wrong.

When he greeted pilgrims Sunday morning in Castel Gandolfo, Benedict urged young people at Cologne to let themselves be inspired by “shining examples of evangelical heroism.”

Benedict also cited two 20th-century figures whose canonization under Pope John Paul II stirred controversy: the Jewish-born nun Edith Stein, who was killed at Auschwitz and made a saint in 1998, and Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish priest made a saint in 1982 after sacrificing his life at the death camp so that a man with a family could live.

Stein’s canonization, however, drew criticism that Catholics were denying Jews’ disproportionate suffering in the Holocaust. In Kolbe’s case, some theologians questioned his being hailed as a martyr, since the priest did not strictly die for the church.

During the trip to Germany, Benedict will meet with Muslim and Jewish groups, and will visit a Cologne synagogue wrecked in the 1938 Kristallnacht pogrom and rebuilt in the 1950s.

Of the German pilgrimage, the 78-year-old Benedict said: “I would not have dared to have initiated it. But if the Almighty God decides to do something like that to you, then one can only be delighted.”

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