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.