VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI (search) said Wednesday his historic visit to a synagogue was an emotional highlight of his trip to Germany (search), and he praised the participants in World Youth Day (search) for helping to bring "a springtime of hope" to the world.
Reflecting on his four-day visit to his homeland during his general audience at the Vatican, Benedict noted in particular his visit with his "Jewish brothers" as well as his meeting with members of Germany's Muslim community.
"And how can I not relive with emotion the visit to the Cologne synagogue, where the oldest German Jewish community is based?" he asked.
His visit was the second by a pope to a Jewish house of worship.
Benedict noted that during his meeting with Muslim leaders, he expressed his concerns about terrorism. He said he hoped "that fanaticism and violence are eradicated and that together we can collaborate on always defending the dignity of the human person and protecting (his or her) fundamental rights."
Benedict also referred to his meeting with Protestant and Orthodox Christian representatives, saying it was significant that it was held in Germany — the birthplace of the Protestant Reformation.
"The role of Germany in ecumenical dialogue is important both for the sad story of the divisions as well as for the significant role it has played in the path of reconciliation," he said.
He said he hoped that the dialogue would help the harmonic "symphony" of unified Christians to grow.
Benedict, whose visit to Germany was his first foreign trip as pope, praised the estimated 1 million young people who flocked to World Youth Day.
"From the heart of 'old' Europe, which in the last century knew horrendous conflicts and inhuman regimes, the young people have relaunched for our times the message of hope that doesn't disappoint, because it is founded on the word of God," he said.
He urged prayers for the young "so that we can help them bring about a springtime of hope in Germany, in Europe and the entire world."
During Wednesday's audience, the pope also said he was praying for victims of flooding in Europe, as well as people who have been uprooted by wildfires blazing in Portugal.
"My thoughts go out to the regions of Europe hit in the last few days by floods or fires which have unfortunately provoked victims and huge damages," he said.
"Many families have been left homeless and hundreds must deal with tragic hardships," he said, assuring the victims of his "spiritual closeness" in such difficult times.