The following address was made by Pope Benedict XVI at the end of Mass
with the College of
Cardinals assembled in the Sistine Chapel on 20 April 2005, the day after his election. It
suggests some elements of the program for his pontificate.
Grace and peace in
abundance to all of you! In my soul there are two contrasting sentiments in
these hours. On the one hand, a sense of inadequacy and human turmoil for
the responsibility entrusted to me yesterday as the Successor of the Apostle
Peter in this See of Rome, with regard to the Universal Church. On the other
hand I sense within me profound gratitude to God Who - as the liturgy makes
us sing - does not abandon His flock, but leads it throughout time, under
the guidance of those whom He has chosen as vicars of His Son, and made
Dear Ones, this intimate recognition for a gift of divine mercy prevails
in my heart in spite of everything. I consider this a grace obtained for me
by my venerated predecessor, John Paul II. It seems I can feel his strong
hand squeezing mine; I seem to see his smiling eyes and listen to his words,
addressed to me especially at this moment: 'Do not be afraid!'
The death of the Holy Father John Paul II, and the days which followed,
were for the Church and for the entire world an extraordinary time of grace.
The great pain for his death and the void that it left in all of us were
tempered by the action of the Risen Christ, which showed itself during long
days in the choral wave of faith, love and spiritual solidarity, culminating
in his solemn funeral.
We can say it: the funeral of John Paul II was a truly extraordinary
experience in which was perceived in some way the power of God Who, through
His Church, wishes to form a great family of all peoples, through the
unifying force of Truth and Love. In the hour of death, conformed to his
Master and Lord, John Paul II crowned his long and fruitful pontificate,
confirming the Christian people in faith, gathering them around him and
making the entire human family feel more united.
How can one not feel sustained by this witness? How can one not feel the
encouragement that comes from this event of grace?
Surprising every prevision I had, Divine Providence, through the will of
the venerable Cardinal Fathers, called me to succeed this great Pope. I have
been thinking in these hours about what happened in the region of Cesarea of
Phillippi two thousand years ago: I seem to hear the words of Peter: 'You
are Christ, the Son of the living God,' and the solemn affirmation of the
Lord: 'You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church ... I will give
you the keys of the kingdom of heaven'.
You are Christ! You are Peter! It seems I am reliving this very Gospel
scene; I, the Successor of Peter, repeat with trepidation the anxious words
of the fisherman from Galilee and I listen again with intimate emotion to
the reassuring promise of the divine Master. If the weight of the
responsibility that now lies on my poor shoulders is enormous, the divine
power on which I can count is surely immeasurable: 'You are Peter and on
this rock I will build my Church'. Electing me as the Bishop of Rome, the
Lord wanted me as his Vicar, he wished me to be the 'rock' upon which
everyone may rest with confidence. I ask him to make up for the poverty of
my strength, that I may be a courageous and faithful pastor of His flock,
always docile to the inspirations of His Spirit.
I undertake this special ministry, the 'Petrine' ministry at the service
of the Universal Church, with humble abandon to the hands of the Providence
of God. And it is to Christ in the first place that I renew my total and
trustworthy adhesion: 'In Te, Domine, speravi; non confundar in aeternum!'
To you, Lord Cardinals, with a grateful soul for the trust shown me, I
ask you to sustain me with prayer and with constant, active and wise
collaboration. I also ask my brothers in the episcopacy to be close to me in
prayer and counsel so that I may truly be the 'Servus servorum Dei' (Servant
of the servants of God). As Peter and the other Apostles were, through the
will of the Lord, one apostolic college, in the same way the Successor of
Peter and the Bishops, successors of the Apostles - and the Council
forcefully repeated this - must be closely united among themselves. This
collegial communion, even in the diversity of roles and functions of the
Supreme Pontiff and the bishops, is at the service of the Church and the
unity of faith, from which depend in a notable measure the effectiveness of
the evangelizing action of the contemporary world. Thus, this path, upon
which my venerated predecessors went forward, I too intend to follow,
concerned solely with proclaiming to the world the living presence of
Before my eyes is, in particular, the witness of Pope John Paul II. He
leaves us a Church that is more courageous, freer, younger. A Church that,
according to his teaching and example, looks with serenity to the past and
is not afraid of the future. With the Great Jubilee the Church was
introduced into the new millennium carrying in her hands the Gospel, applied
to the world through the authoritative re-reading of Vatican Council II.
Pope John Paul II justly indicated the Council as a 'compass' with which to
orient ourselves in the vast ocean of the third millennium. Also in his
spiritual testament he noted: ' I am convinced that for a very long time the
new generations will draw upon the riches that this council of the 20th
century gave us'.
I too, as I start in the service that is proper to the Successor of
Peter, wish to affirm with force my decided will to pursue the commitment to
enact Vatican Council II, in the wake of my predecessors and in faithful
continuity with the millennia-old tradition of the Church. Precisely this
year is the 40th anniversary of the conclusion of this conciliar assembly
(December 8, 1965). With the passing of time, the conciliar documents have
not lost their timeliness; their teachings have shown themselves to be
especially pertinent to the new exigencies of the Church and the present
In a very significant way, my pontificate starts as the Church is living
the special year dedicated to the Eucharist. How can I not see in this
providential coincidence an element that must mark the ministry to which I
have been called? The Eucharist, the heart of Christian life and the source
of the evangelizing mission of the Church, cannot but be the permanent
center and the source of the petrine service entrusted to me.
The Eucharist makes the Risen Christ constantly present, Christ Who
continues to give Himself to us, calling us to participate in the banquet of
His Body and His Blood. From this full communion with Him comes every other
element of the life of the Church, in the first place the communion among
the faithful, the commitment to proclaim and give witness to the Gospel, the
ardor of charity towards all, especially towards the poor and the smallest.
In this year, therefore, the Solemnity of Corpus Christ must be
celebrated in a particularly special way. The Eucharist will be at the
center, in August, of World Youth Day in Cologne and, in October, of the
ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops which will take place on the theme
"The Eucharist, Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church.' I
ask everyone to intensify in coming months love and devotion to the
Eucharistic Jesus and to express in a courageous and clear way the real
presence of the Lord, above all through the solemnity and the correctness of
I ask this in a special way of priests, about whom I am thinking in this
moment with great affection. The priestly ministry was born in the Cenacle,
together with the Eucharist, as my venerated predecessor John Paul II
underlined so many times. 'The priestly life must have in a special way a
'Eucharistic form', he wrote in his last Letter for Holy Thursday. The
devout daily celebration of Holy Mass, the center of the life and mission of
every priest, contributes to this end.
Nourished and sustained by the Eucharist, Catholics cannot but feel
stimulated to tend towards that full unity for which Christ hoped in the
Cenacle. Peter's Successor knows that he must take on this supreme desire of
the Divine Master in a particularly special way. To him, indeed, has been
entrusted the duty of strengthening his brethren.
Thus, in full awareness and at the beginning of his ministry in the
Church of Rome that Peter bathed with his blood, the current Successor
assumes as his primary commitment that of working tirelessly towards the
reconstitution of the full and visible unity of all Christ's followers. This
is his ambition, this is his compelling duty. He is aware that to do so,
expressions of good feelings are not enough. Concrete gestures are required
to penetrate souls and move consciences, encouraging everyone to that
interior conversion which is the basis for all progress on the road of
Theological dialogue is necessary. A profound examination of the
historical reasons behind past choices is also indispensable. But even more
urgent is that 'purification of memory,' which was so often evoked by John
Paul II, and which alone can dispose souls to welcome the full truth of
Christ. It is before Him, supreme Judge of all living things, that each of
us must stand, in the awareness that one day we must explain to Him what we
did and what we did not do for the great good that is the full and visible
unity of all His disciples.
The current Successor of Peter feels himself to be personally implicated
in this question and is disposed to do all in his power to promote the
fundamental cause of ecumenism. In the wake of his predecessors, he is fully
determined to cultivate any initiative that may seem appropriate to promote
contact and agreement with representatives from the various Churches and
ecclesial communities. Indeed, on this occasion too, he sends them his most
cordial greetings in Christ, the one Lord of all.
In this moment, I go back in my memory to the unforgettable experience
we all underwent with the death and the funeral of the lamented John Paul
II. Around his mortal remains, lying on the bare earth, leaders of nations
gathered, with people from all social classes and especially the young, in
an unforgettable embrace of affection and admiration. The entire world
looked to him with trust. To many it seemed as if that intense
participation, amplified to the confines of the planet by the social
communications media, was like a choral request for help addressed to the
Pope by modern humanity which, wracked by fear and uncertainty, questions
itself about the future.
The Church today must revive within herself an awareness of the task to
present the world again with the voice of the One Who said: 'I am the light
of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the
light of life.' In undertaking his ministry, the new Pope knows that his
task is to bring the light of Christ to shine before the men and women of
today: not his own light but that of Christ.
With this awareness, I address myself to everyone, even to those who
follow other religions or who are simply seeking an answer to the
fundamental questions of life and have not yet found it. I address everyone
with simplicity and affection, to assure them that the Church wants to
continue to build an open and sincere dialogue with them, in a search for
the true good of mankind and of society.
From God I invoke unity and peace for the human family and declare the
willingness of all Catholics to cooperate for true social development, one
that respects the dignity of all human beings.
I will make every effort and dedicate myself to pursuing the promising
dialogue that my predecessors began with various civilizations, because it
is mutual understanding that gives rise to conditions for a better future
I am particularly thinking of young people. To them, the privileged
interlocutors of John Paul II, I send an affectionate embrace in the hope,
God willing, of meeting them at Cologne on the occasion of the next World
Youth Day. With you, dear young people, I will continue to maintain a
dialogue, listening to your expectations in an attempt to help you meet ever
more profoundly the living, ever young, Christ.
"Mane nobiscum, Domine!" Stay with us Lord! This invocation, which forms
the dominant theme of John Paul II's Apostolic Letter for the Year of the
Eucharist, is the prayer that comes spontaneously from my heart as I turn to
begin the ministry to which Christ has called me. Like Peter, I too renew to
Him my unconditional promise of faithfulness. He alone I intend to serve as
I dedicate myself totally to the service of His Church.
In support of this promise, I invoke the maternal intercession of Mary
Most Holy, in whose hands I place the present and the future of my person
and of the Church. May the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and all the saints,
With these sentiments I impart to you venerated brother cardinals, to
those participating in this ritual, and to all those following us by
television and radio, a special and affectionate blessing.
(Vatican Information Service text)