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
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
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 celebrations.
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 ecumenism.
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
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
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, also
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."
MESS/FIRST MASS BENEDICT XVI/... VIS 050420 (2370)