Posted Tuesday, April 26, 2005



Pope Benedict XVI 'prayed not to be elected'

Benedict XVI meets other faith leaders

ope Benedict XVI has revealed he prayed to God during the conclave not to be elected pope but that "evidently this time He didn't listen to me."

Benedict made the comments at an audience Monday with German pilgrims, who enthusiastically greeted the first German pope in centuries.

A smiling Benedict shook the pilgrims' hands and blessed a child given to him before taking his seat in the audience hall and starting his speech.

Speaking in his native German, Benedict told the audience that during the conclave, or papal election, when it became clear he was getting many votes, a cardinal passed him a note reminding him what he had preached about Christ calling Peter to follow him even if he was reluctant to go.

Benedict, 78, said he hoped to spend his last years living quietly and peacefully.

"At a certain point, I prayed to God 'please don't do this to me,"' he recalled. "Evidently, this time He didn't listen to me."

Benedict was elected pope on April 19 after four rounds of balloting in 24 hours, one of the fastest elections in a century. He had gone in as a leading candidate, but at 78 he was considered old to be named pope.

Benedict was interrupted several times by applause, and he seemed to enjoy the welcome from his fellow countrymen, smiling often.

"Benedict sent from God," the crowds chanted, according to AP. In German, the chant rhymes: "Benedict Gott Geschickt."

After calling for unity in his inauguration address, the pope made meeting leaders of other faiths who attended his installation his first public duty Monday.

Following the mid-morning ecumenical gathering at the Vatican, the new pope was to receive many of the estimated 100,000 Germans who journeyed to Rome to attend Sunday's Mass in St. Peter's Square, in which the first German in centuries was officially installed as pontiff.

Religious leaders who attended the ceremony included the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams; Metropolitan Chrisostomos, a top envoy for Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world's Christian Orthodox Church; and a senior representative of the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Kirill.

Most Jewish leaders could not attend the Mass to formally invest the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as pope as it clashed with the week-long Passover holiday.

Benedict, who has a reputation as a hard-liner for leading Vatican crackdowns on Catholic dissenters, said in his homily Sunday that he wanted to shape his papacy by being a "listener" and not set off by imposing his own ideas.

Since being elected pope on Tuesday, 78-year-old Benedict has sought a more inclusive image.

During his homily, the new pontiff said he wished to reach out to Jews and "believers and non-believers alike," and asked for prayers from the St. Peter's Square onlookers as he assumed "this enormous task."

"Let us do all we can to pursue the path toward the unity you have promised," he said. "Grant that we may be one flock and one shepherd. Do not allow your net to be torn. Help us to be servants of unity."

He noted "a great shared spiritual heritage" with Jews, whom he called "brothers and sisters."

Benedict's effort to reach out to Jews carries an added dimension because of his membership in the Hitler Youth and later as a German army conscript during World War II. He said he was forced into participating.

The pope made no direct overture to Muslims, but he said that "like a wave gathering force, my thoughts go out to all men and women of today, to believers and nonbelievers alike."

One question Vatican watchers are asking is if the 78-year-old pope will keep up John Paul's world-spanning travel. U.S. Cardinal Justin Rigali, the archbishop of Philadelphia, said he was confident the pontiff would rise to the challenge.

"We are very impressed by his extraordinary energy," Rigali told CNN.

Rigali said American bishops are also looking to the pope to help them confront the fallout from priest sex abuse scandals in the U.S. church.

He said he was confident Benedict "will do everything possible to support the bishops of the United States in their efforts to extricate, to eradicate, to wipe out any of this abuse that has indeed taken place and that is deplorable."

Dignitaries attending Sunday's ceremony under heavy security included German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Prince Albert II of Monaco and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the U.S. president's brother.

More than 350,000 people -- including up to 100,000 Germans -- and hundreds of state and religious leaders from around the world gathered in and around the square, the Vatican said.

Benedict XVI said his predecessor Pope John Paul II was "at home" among the saints in heaven, but stopped short of calling for his canonization.

After his death on April 2, there have been popular calls, as well as calls from some prelates, for John Paul to be made a saint swiftly.

2005 CNN