Pope Benedict XVI left for Germany on the first international trip of his 4-month-old pontificate.
The Pope, who was elected four months ago, will spend four days in Cologne to conclude celebrations of the Roman Catholic Church's World Youth Day.
Benedict greeted reporters as he boarded his flight. Asked how he felt, he replied: "Very moved because this is a visit to my homeland, but also a visit to young people,” according to reuters.
"This is a truly extraordinary event because young from all over world and from all cultures are coming together in a united fashion to search for the truth," he added in a rare, off the cuff chat to journalists.
"This is a sign of the star of Christ which still guides us today, collecting those who have lost their way. It creates understanding, friendship, joy and the hope for peace.
"It is a great thing to be a part of this event. It is a gift and I will try to do my part with the help of God."
His predecessor, John Paul II, had already promised young Catholics that he would be present at the Catholic Church's World Youth Day.
The gathering, invented by the late Pope John Paul, is held in a different part of the world every three years. Pope Benedict is sure of an enthusiastic welcome by the several hundred thousand young Catholics from around the world who have already gathered in Cologne to welcome him.
Vatican observers will be watching to see what sort of relationship he is able to establish with young Catholics.
Many of them have been openly critical of the prohibitions he issued during the 20 years when he headed the Roman Catholic Church's disciplinary body.