500,000 expected for papal inauguration

Wednesday 20 April 2005 22.10
Pope Benedict XVI - Pontiff seeks Christian unity
Pope Benedict XVI - Pontiff seeks Christian unity

Authorities in Rome have said they are expecting up to 500,000 people to attend Sunday's inaugural Mass of Pope Benedict XVI in St Peter's Square in the Vatican.

They said they would implement the same measures that were in place for the funeral of Pope John Paul II on 8 April.

Pope Benedict has promised to continue moves made by his predecessors to engage in a dialogue with other religions and cultures. 

The 78-year-old German, formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was elected by his fellow cardinals yesterday.

It has emerged that he won far more than the 77 votes required to secure the Papacy.

Speaking during a Mass in the Sistine Chapel on his first day in office, the new Pope also promised to allow local authorities more power within the Church. 

He also expressed his sense of inadequacy at his new responsibility.

Speaking in Latin, he said: ‘On one hand I have a sense of inadequacy and human turmoil at the responsibility entrusted to me yesterday ... on the other hand, I feel living in me a deep gratitude to God who does not abandon his flock but guides them always'.

He continued: ‘A demonstration of good intentions is not enough. We need concrete gestures that enter the soul, and move consciences, calling each one to that interior conversion that is the basis of any progress on the ecumenical path'.

‘I address everyone with simplicity and affection to ensure that the Church wants to continue to weave an open and sincere dialogue with them in the search for the true good of man and society'.

Pope Benedict confirmed that he would attend World Youth Day festivities in Cologne in his native country in August.

Irish leaders offer support

Many of the comments from public figures in Ireland following Pope Benedict's election have drawn attention to the universal impact of the life and death of his predecessor.

President Mary McAleese said the new Pope now embodies the hopes of people throughout the world for a just and more caring human family.

The Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, said all Irish people wish Pope Benedict well with his awesome responsibility. He added that he hoped he would visit Ireland in the near future.

Tánaiste Mary Harney said no doubt Pope Benedict would continue John Paul’s good work as bridge builder and peacemaker.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said the new Pope would need his considerable intellectual ability to meet the serious challenges facing the Church.

The Archbishop of Armagh, Dr Seán Brady, said the election of Pope Benedict was an important event for the whole human family.

The Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, Dr John Neill, prayed that Benedict would develop ecumenism, saying that in a globalised world the united voice of people of faith will be increasingly called upon against the evils of war and poverty.

World leaders pledge co-operation

The United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, and European leaders said they would work with the new Pope to secure peace and justice.

And speaking outside the White House, US President George W Bush offered his and his wife Laura's congratulations, describing Pope Benedict as a man of great wisdom and knowledge.

The German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, said the new Pontiff was a worthy successor to Pope John Paul, and said he was looking forward to welcoming him back to Germany soon.

In the new Pope’s native Bavaria, Catholics celebrated on the streets waving yellow and white papal flags.

The long-serving German MEP, Elmar Brok, said the Pope was a man of intellectual strength who would build links with other churches and faiths, but was unlikely to change his stance on moral issues.

Liberal Catholics have expressed concern that there will be little reform under Pope Benedict.