PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A group of pilgrims left Philadelphia Wednesday en route to Europe and events leading up to Pope Benedict XVI observance of World Youth Day.

More than 30 teens and young adults boarded a flight at Newark International Airport Wednesday night, heading for tours of a variety of religious sites in Portugal and France before heading on to Madrid and the World Youth Day Festivities.

Maria Richardson, of the Philadelphia Archdiocese office of youth and young adults, is accompanying the pilgrims. She says it promises to be a deeply spiritual experience for the participants.

“We are bringing in our hearts, in our prayers all of the people of Philadelphia, all of the priests of Philadelphia, and all of the people around the world who so desperately need our prayer support.”

Pope Benedict is set to arrive August 18th for a variety of events and will celebrate a closing outdoor mass for the hundreds of thousands of young people expected in Madrid on Sunday, August 21st.

Reported by Mark Abrams, KYW Newsradio 1060

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