Pope receives warm welcome at first audience

27th April 2005, Comments 0 comments

27 April 2005, VATICAN CITY - Cheers and songs from a festive crowd of faithful gathered in Rome's sun-drenched St. Peter's Square on Wednesday greeted Joseph Ratzinger at his first general audience as Pope Benedict XVI.

27 April 2005

VATICAN CITY - Cheers and songs from a festive crowd of faithful gathered in Rome's sun-drenched St. Peter's Square on Wednesday greeted Joseph Ratzinger at his first general audience as Pope Benedict XVI.

Dressed in white papal robes, the German-born pontiff smiled and waved back to the crowds as he toured the square aboard an open-top jeep before settling down to bless the faithful.

Addressing a crowd that grew well beyond the Vatican's initial estimates of 15,000, Joseph Ratzinger spoke of the mixed feelings he felt upon learning of his election. He also said his choice of Benedict as his papal name signalled his intention of placing his ministry "in the service of reconciliation and harmony between peoples".

"After the holy death of my beloved predecessor, Pope John Paul II, I come before you today for my first general audience," the 78-year-old pope said to applause, "filled with sentiments of awe and thanksgiving".

Explaining his choice of name, he said he wished to honour one of his predecessors, Benedict XV, pope during World War One, whom he described as a "courageous prophet of peace", as well as Saint Benedict of Norcia, one of the patron saints of Europe.

Saint Benedict founded a religious order that bears his name and which contributed to the spread of Christianity across Europe during the fourth and fifth century. Saint Benedict is particularly popular in Ratzinger's native Bavaria.

Repeated applause and cheers, interjected by the occasional song from Latin American groups, accompanied his speech, which was delivered in Italian, French, German and Spanish.

The pope also saluted pilgrims from his predecessor's native country of Poland in Polish and delivered brief greetings in Croatian and Slovenian, thereby seeking his desire to extend John Paul's tradition of addressing foreign visitors in their own language.

Wednesday's audience was the first by Benedict since his election last week and the first to be attended by a pope since 26 January.

The late John Paul suffered a respiratory crisis shortly after attending that audience and was rushed to hospital. He eventually died in his papal apartment on 2 April.

Among those in St. Peter's Square on Wednesday were Moslems from more than 30 countries who are currently participating in a symposium on Islamic-Christian dialogue near Rome.

Benedict has already said he plans to continue in his predecessor's footsteps in pursuing dialogue with other faiths.

DPA

Subject: German news

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