BENEDICT XVI, A
POPE OF CHRIST, COMMUNION, COLLEGIALITY
CITY, APR 20, 2005 (VIS) - Following is the complete text of the
first message of Pope Benedict XVI which he delivered in Latin at
the end of this morning's Mass with the members of the College of
Cardinals in the Sistine Chapel. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was
elected as the 264th successor to St. Peter in early evening
"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 pastors.
"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
"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 Christ.
"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 globalized society.
"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 the
"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
"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
"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
"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 for everyone.
"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,
"'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, also intercede.
"With these sentiments I impart to you venerated brother cardinals,
to those participating in this ritual, and to all those following to
us by television and radio, a special and affectionate blessing."