Greeting Pilgrims – Pope Benedict XVI

The Pope met with thousands of enthusiastic German pilgrims Monday for an audience; it lasted about ten minutes, but he arrived exactly half an hour late for it, coming from a meeting with non-Catholic religious leaders. He started with a greeting and an apology:

Welcome! I thank you with all my heart for the kind wishes, for the words and gestures of support and friendship that I have received from all the parts ofGermany in such an overwhelming way. At the beginning of my path in an office that I had never thought of, and for which I didn’t regard myself as suited, all these signs of your support are really quite a source of strength and help.

Dear German countrymen, next I must beg pardon for the delay. Germans are used to punctuality; it seems I have already become very Italianized!

With irony, he addressed the inquisitiveness of his fellow countrymen about how he had come to be elected:

Now I must tell a little story about how it all happened, naturally without breaking the secrecy of the conclave…. [laughter]. When the course of the voting slowly made me recognize that, so to speak, the lot was going to fall to me, my emotions became quite dizzy: you see, I had believed that I had accomplished the purpose of my life, and could hope to ring out my days in peace. So with deep conviction I said to the Lord, “Don’t do this with me! You’ve got younger and better men, with altogether more vigor and more strength who could step up to this task.”

But a cardinal had slipped a note to him, in which he urged him to be obedient to the Biblical words, “Follow me”, and not to refuse.

So in the end there was nothing else remaining to me but to say yes. I’m trusting in the Lord, and I’m trusting in you, dear friends. A Christian is never alone, I said in the homily yesterday; that’s how I expressed the wonderful experience that we have been able to have in these unusual four weeks that lie behind us. At the death of the Pope, amid all the sorrow, the living Church has appeared and has become visible, so that the Church is a force for unity and a sign for humanity.

The worldwide attention to the last days and the death of John Paul the Second has itself shown what the Church means to people of today, said Pope Benedict.

In the Pope a father had become visible to them, who gave trust and conviction, who somehow bound everyone together. It became visible that the Church is not closed in upon herself, and is not here only for herself, but is a point of light for people in all the world.

It became visible that the Church is not at all old and stiff, many say; she is young and when we look upon this youth, this youth of the late Pope, and finally, at Christ’s tomb, by which angels were standing, then something no less consoling became visible. It is not at all true, as people always say, that the young are only interested in consumerism and pleasure. It is not true that they are materialistic and egoistic. The opposite is true: youth wants what is great! It wants that an end to injustice be declared; it wants inequality to be overcome, and that everyone get to have their share in the goods of the world; it wants the oppressed to gain their freedom; it wants what is great; it wants what is good. And for this reason youth is — you are, we are — altogether open for Christ.

On the World Youth Day:

I am looking forward to Köln, where the youth of the world will be meeting, or better: where the youth will have an encounter with Christ. Let’s go together, let’s keep together. I trust in your help. I ask for your patience when I make mistakes like any man or when some things remain incomprehensible, things the Pope has to say and do according to his conscience and the conscience of the Church. I ask you for your trust: let’s stay together; then we’ll find the right way.

And a word to his countrymen:

I’ve been in Rome for 23 1/2 years, but the roots remain, and I’ve remained a Bavarian, even as the Bishop of Rome.


Transcribed and translated from Monday’s Vatican Radio broadcasts. The narrations are paraphrased.

Pope Benedict XVI

Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, was born in Bavaria, Germany, on April 16, 1927, Holy Saturday, and baptized the very same day, in the newly blessed Easter water. This special baptism was seen from the beginning of his life as a very special blessing of Divine Providence. Josef and his brother George entered the seminary and were ordained priests together on June 29, 1951. After receiving his doctorate in theology from the University of Munich in 1953, Fr. Joseph Ratzinger became a professor of dogmatic theology at the University of Bonn. When Vatican Council II began in 1962, Fr. Ratzinger, only 35 years old at the time, was named chief “peritus” or theological advisor to the Archbishop of Cologne, Joseph Cardinal Frings and accompanied him to all four sessions of the council, having input on the writing of several of the Council Documents. From 1969 until 1977 he taught theology at the University of Regensburg and, from 1969 until 1980, he was a member of the Vatican’s International Theological Commission. Fr. Joseph Ratzinger was ordained archbishop of Munich-Freising on May 28, 1977 and was created a cardinal priest by Pope Paul VI on June 27, 1977, his titular church in Rome being St. Mary of Consolation (in Tiburtina). On April 5, 1993 Cardinal Ratzinger was transferred by Pope John Paul II to the order of cardinal bishops as titular bishop of the suburbicarian see of Velletri-Signi. In 1981 Cardinal Ratzinger became the Prefect (head) of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican department in charge of protecting the sacred deposit of the faith handed on from the apostles. As such, he was Pope John Paul II’s chief assistant in the formulation of the Pope’s teaching and writing. There is perhaps no one who worked more closely with Pope John Paul II during the course of his pontificate. Cardinal Ratzinger would generally have lengthy private meetings with the Pope twice per week. Before his election as Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Ratzinger also served president of the Pontifical Biblical and Theological Commissions. On November 6, 1998, Cardinal Ratzinger was appointed Vice-dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals. Prior to the death of Pope John Paul II, he served as a member of the Congregation of Bishops, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Congregation for Catholic Education, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, the Council for Christian Unity, the Council for Culture, the Commission Ecclesia Dei, and the Commission for Latin America. As prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger had a decisive role in the writing of the “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification,” signed in October 1999 by the Holy See and the World Lutheran Federation in Augsburg, Germany. The declaration, one of the most important ecumenical steps since Martin Luther’s split with the Catholic Church in the 16th century, took place thanks to the dialogue held in November 1998 between Cardinal Ratzinger and Lutheran Bishop Johannes Hanselman in Munich. As he approached his mid-seventies, Cardinal Ratzinger attempted to retire several times, but Pope John Paul II would not accept his resignation. It seems Pope John Paul II knew God had other plans for the German Cardinal. At 78, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected as Pope Benedict XVI on April 19, 2005, only the second day of the conclave. This speedy election demonstrates a remarkable consensus on the part of the 115 Cardinals who elected him by a two-thirds majority. Their vote was for a defender of the truth, a man of prayer, a humble servant of the servants of God. Besides his academic articles and official Church documents, the new Pope Benedict XVI provides us with a window into his mind and heart through several books, the Ratzinger Report (1996), The Spirit of the Liturgy (2000), God and the World (2002) and Introduction to Christianity. For those who have had the privilege of knowing him personally, what is most striking about him is his simplicity, humility, and childlike wonder at things. His self-effacing manner is combined, however, with a firm but gentle courage in defending the faith in all its fullness and integrity. In his resolute opposition to error, he is however, never personally defensive since he has no ego to protect. It is worth noting that on his coat of arms, Benedict replaced the traditional papal tiara with a bishop’s miter with three stripes representing the Church’s three-fold mission to teach, sanctify, and govern. At his inaugural Mass, he took the time to explain the importance of the pallium which symbolizes the shepherd’s mission and the yoke of Christ.