Benedict XVI honours JohnPaul II and calls for unity

20th April 2005, Comments 0 comments

20 April 2005, VATICAN CITY - Setting the tone for his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday paid homage to his predecessor and called for unity among Christians and peace around the globe in his first major address as pontiff.

20 April 2005

VATICAN CITY - Setting the tone for his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday paid homage to his predecessor and called for unity among Christians and peace around the globe in his first major address as pontiff.

Speaking in Latin beneath the spectacularly frescoed ceiling of the Vatican's Sistine Chapel, the German-born pope expressed gratitude for the "divine gift" of his ascent to the throne of Peter.

Although cardinal electors are sworn to secrecy, Joseph Ratzinger is believed to have received far more support that the required two- thirds majority of 77 votes in the conclave. His election was the shortest in 66 years.

Benedict XVI expressed "profound surprise" at the cardinals' decision to elect him and said he felt an "enormous burden of responsibility" weighing on his shoulders.

"I consider this a special grace bestowed upon me by my venerable predecessor, John Paul II," the pope said after delivering his first mass as pontiff.

"I can almost feel his strong hand holding mine. I can almost see his smiling eyes and hear his words being directed at me in this special time: 'Be not afraid'," he said.

"I ask the Lord to compensate for the poverty of my strength so I may be a courageous and loyal pastor of his flock," said the pope, who at 78 is the oldest cardinal to have been elected pope in the last 100 years.

John Paul II, Benedict said, had forged "a more courageous, more free and young church".

In praising his predecessor, the German pontiff sought to reassure the faithful he would be continuing in his footsteps.

Benedict XVI said John Paul II had left behind "a church that looks serenely to the past and is not afraid of the future".

Ratzinger spent his first night as pope in the Vatican's Santa Marta guesthouse while officials were busy preparing the papal apartment. The seals that had kept its doors closed following John Paul's death on 2 April were broken on Wednesday.

Hundreds of thousands of faithful, as well as scores of dignitaries and heads of state, are expected in Rome on Sunday for the official mass inaugurating his pontificate.

Among the first to confirm their presence in St. Peter's Square were German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French Prime Mininster Jean-Pierre Raffarin.

Italian police were already preparing on Wednesday for yet another massive security operation similar to the one in place for the 8 April funeral of Pope John Paul II. That ceremony drew some three million faithful and a plethora of world leaders.

Supporters of the new pope, who have taken on the mantle of 'Ratzinger Boys', have already begun to descend on the Italian capital.

As Bishop of Rome, Benedict XVI was also welcomed by the city's mayor, Walter Veltroni.

"I am sure the new pope will love Rome and that the city will requite this love," he said.

In his Wednesday address, which was televised live in Italy and beyond, the first German-born pope in 482 years appealed to cardinals for collaboration and said he would strive for unity among Christians, not just through "good sentiment" but also with "concrete actions".

Casting himself as a peacemaker, he also vowed to continue dialogue with other religions and address social justice issues.

"I invoke from God unity and peace for the human family and declare the willingness of all Catholics to cooperate for a true social development that respects the dignity of every human being," he said.

Making it clear he would continue John Paul's special relationship with the young, Benedict XVI confirmed plans to attend a Catholic World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany, in August.

Ratzinger was elected by 115 cardinal electors from 52 countries on Tuesday afternoon during the fourth ballot of a 2 day-long conclave, the briefest since the election of Pope Pius XII in 1939.

The choice of Ratzinger, known for his staunchly conservative stance on Catholic Church doctrine regarding women, celibacy and relations with non-Christian faiths, received mixed reaction among lay Catholics, disappointing progressives but pleasing conservatives.


Subject: German news

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