Fri Apr 22, 2005
By Jane Barrett
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict wants to serve rather than be honoured during his papacy, he said on Friday, asking cardinals to help him overcome his weaknesses as he leads the Catholic Church.
At his first audience since he was elected on Tuesday, the Pope greeted each of the "princes" of the Church by name, a fatherly smile on his face.
"This is not about being honoured but rather about a service that needs to be carried out with simplicity and dedication," the Pope told the cardinals, most of whom took part in the conclave that chose him as pontiff.
"I thank you for the faith you have put in me, which encourages me to take on this new mission with serenity," he said. "I beg you. Never deprive me of your support."
When the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger greeted the crowds as Pope for the first time, he called himself a "simple, humble worker in the Lord's vineyard" and at a Mass with cardinals this week made frequent mention of his inadequacy and weakness.
On Friday, the 78-year-old German again referred to his human frailty and "my limits as a man and in my abilities".
"Your spiritual closeness, your inspired counsel and your physical cooperation will be a gift to me that I will always recognise and that will spur me on to fulfill my mandate with total faithfulness and dedication," he said.
Benedict will celebrate his inauguration Mass in St. Peter's Square on Sunday morning, delivering his first homily as Pope from the spot where he presided over the funeral of his predecessor, John Paul, two weeks ago.
Fewer world leaders are expected to attend the inauguration than came to the funeral, one of the biggest gatherings of the powerful in recent times, but Rome is still shutting off its airspace and drafting in volunteers to help marshall the crowds.
Authorities reckon about 500,000 people will watch the inauguration in St. Peter's Square and the streets nearby, including busloads of German pilgrims coming to see their first compatriot in a millennium be sworn in as Pope.
Benedict will receive the visiting dignitaries in an audience after Mass on Sunday and then welcome German pilgrims personally on Monday morning.
Since he was elected, Pope Benedict has been at pains to show the softer side of a prelate formerly famed for his strictly conservative defence of Catholic doctrine and staunch opposition to what he called "the dictatorship of relativism".
Twice this week he has returned to his old apartment just outside the Vatican walls, waving to the crowds with warm smiles as they chanted "Benedict! Benedict!"
The same warmth was on show on Friday as cardinals from around the world greeted him and kissed his ring.
The Pope, looking more comfortable by the day in his white papal vestments, chatted to each of them in Italian, German, French, Spanish and even Latin, patting their hands as they came to pay homage to their new leader.
At Sunday's Mass, they will publicly pay homage to him as Supreme Roman Pontiff. Benedict will also receive the fisherman's ring traditionally worn by the Pope and the papal pallium -- a stole proclaiming his authority.