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Theological Notebook: Getting to the End of the Papal rush.

As the press frenzy from Rome dies down, these last few days bring us a mixed bag: the Pope's sense of humour is highlighted, along with his brother's revelation that the Pope tends to lose things. Methinks that the Pope having a brother from whom information like this can be gathered is going to add a very different dynamic to this papacy. Other stories feature opening feelers regarding relations with the Russian Orthodox Church and with Islam. The Pope describing his desire to not be elected, details about his Bavarian homeland, and a description of his new coat of arms completes this set of stories.


Pope Benedict XVI Shows Humor and Warmth


Apr 26, 7:27 AM (ET)

By VICTOR L. SIMPSON

VATICAN CITY (AP) - Pope Benedict XVI is showing his humorous side and that he knows how to work a crowd, traits the public rarely saw during his quarter-century as the stern German guardian of the church's conservative doctrine.

In the first glimpse of what went on inside his mind during last week's conclave, Benedict said Monday he prayed to be passed over as pontiff because there were younger candidates and that when it become clear he would be elected it felt like "the guillotine."

He kissed babies and chuckled as he held an audience with German pilgrims - tens of thousands had flocked to his installation a day earlier - and gave a homily at a Rome basilica, St. Paul Outside the Walls. To his compatriots, he first apologized for being late, saying a meeting with religious leaders had run over time.

"The Germans are used to punctuality," he joked. "I'm already very Italian."

Thousands later packed the evening service, where the pope held a biblical reading from the apostle Paul to the Romans - to show his connection to the city of Rome, where he is bishop.

Anja Tartarini, a 31-year-old actress who lined up early, suggested the new pope is winning fans despite the inevitable comparisons to John Paul II, his predecessor who died April 2.

"He's sweet and nice and strong. He has a different kind of charisma from John Paul," she said . "He says he feels inadequate like a child, but with unbelievable humility he accepted this task."

Benedict was elected the first German pope in centuries on April 19 after four rounds of voting in 24 hours, one of the fastest conclaves in 100 years. While he had been a leading candidate, 78 is considered old to be elected pope.

"As the trend in the ballots slowly made me realize that, in a manner of speaking, the guillotine would fall on me, I started to feel quite dizzy," Benedict said in his native German at the audience, smiling and chuckling. "I thought that I had done my life's work and could now hope to live out my days in peace.

"I told the Lord with deep conviction, 'Don't do this to me. You have younger and better (candidates) who could take up this great task with a totally different energy and with different strength.'"

"Evidently, this time He didn't listen to me," Benedict joked.

He said that during the secret deliberations, a fellow cardinal had written him a note, reminding him of the sermon he delivered during the funeral Mass for Pope John Paul II, in which he referred to a biblical passage where God tells the apostle Peter to follow him.

"My fellow brother wrote me: 'If the Lord should now tell you, 'Follow me,' then remember what you preached. Do not refuse. Be obedient. ...This touched my heart. The ways of the Lord are not comfortable, but we were not created for comfort, but for greatness, for good."

"So in the end, all I could do was say yes. I am trusting in God, and I am trusting in you, dear friends."

The new pope met with religious leaders who attended his installation Mass Sunday. He told Muslim representatives in particular that he wanted to continue building "bridges of friendship" that he said could foster peace in the world.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams; Metropolitan Chrisostomos, a top envoy for Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world's Christian Orthodox Church; and a senior representative of the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Kirill, attended the Mass.

Williams said after Monday's meeting that he was "encouraged by the way Pope Benedict went out of his way to underline the commitment to ecumenism," both in his homily Sunday and his message Monday.

He called the new pope "extremely intelligent and sympathetic to the ecumenical movement" and said he had invited him to visit Britain.

In Moscow, the head of Russia's Orthodox Church, Patriarch Alexy II, said a visit by Benedict to Russia would only be possible after the two churches resolve their longtime differences.

Relations between the world's two largest Christian communities have been tense amid Russian allegations of Catholic poaching of Orthodox believers. The tensions prevented John Paul from visiting Russia - a trip he had hoped to make as part of his efforts to reconcile the two churches.




Pope's Homeland a Place Apart From Germany


Apr 26, 6:14 AM (ET)

By MATT SURMAN

TRAUNSTEIN, Germany (AP) - Benedict XVI is not just German - he's Bavarian.

The pope's homeland is a place apart from the rest of Germany, and not just because of its scenic beauty and quaint traditions.

Along with spectacular summits, oompah bands, and lederhosen, the southern region is the most religious part of the country.

"Catholicism is part of the Bavarian identity and culture," said Rainer Kampling, a theologian at Free University in Berlin. "It's not just religion, it's a part of living, a part of the family."

Germany as a whole is largely secular and has as many Protestants - 34 percent of the population - as it does Catholics.

In Bavaria, however, even for those who aren't particularly religious, Catholicism sets the tone. All the major holidays are religious holidays, and a crucifix is a typical wall decoration in public schools. The Christian Social Union, which descended from the Catholic party banned by the Nazis, dominates politics.

Joseph Ratzinger grew up in Traunstein, a town of around 19,000 about an hour drive from Munich. The future pope wrote of his homesickness for Bavaria when he was teaching in other parts of Germany. When he left the University of Tuebingen in southwest Germany in 1969, it was for the University of Regensburg in Bavaria.

Traditional dress - the dirndl skirts and leather shorts with suspenders - and religious processions remain popular, even if the region is also Germany's high-tech center.

"We're more religious, but we also recognize real values more," 64-year-old Rita Sternad said while standing on Traunstein's flag-stoned square.

The region has a reputation as being more friendly and less hectic than other parts of Germany. The local dialect, which has left its distinct traces in the pope's speech, sounds warmer and slower than rat-a-tat northern German.

"They say that Munich is the northernmost city in Italy," Sternad said.

Bavarians use the word "pride" to talk about their feelings after Benedict's election; most Germans avoid the word, a legacy of the Nazi period when nationalism boiled over into hatred.

"We are so proud that the pope is one of us - a Bavarian," said Hubert Gschwendtner, the mayor of Marktl am Inn, the small town where the pope was born.

"I pray, and I believe we are much more religious than the rest of Germany," Karin Polak, 37, said, as she window-shopped across from the 14th century church in Traunstein.

Others think the pope's Bavarian roots are showing too strongly.

Blanka Kopp, 38, who works at a wine shop on the town square, is a nonpracticing Catholic troubled by the church's stand on birth control and abortion. She believes that the new pope is being left behind by a changing world.

And his election "is guaranteed not going to change anything," she said.

</a>
Pope Benedict XVI leads a prayer in the Basilica of St. Paul outside the walls in Rome, Monday, April 25, 2005. In his first official visit outside the Vatican City, the pontiff prayed in the packed Rome Basilica and visited the place where the Apostle Paul, co-founder of the Church with Peter, is believed to have been buried. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All right reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.





From 4/25
Benedict calls for more dialogue with other churches, religions


Reactions to his 'bridge building' is mixed

By Stacy Meichtry
Rome

Pope Benedict XVI drew a mixed reaction from Muslim and ecumenical leaders Monday after delivering an address that renewed his call for increased dialogue and "bridge building" between faiths.

"I express my appreciation for the growth of dialogue between Muslims and Christians, both at the local and international level," he told the delegations of religious leaders that also had attended his inaugural Mass on Sunday. Benedict neglected to mention Muslims in his inaugural address while referring to the "Jewish People" as "brothers and sisters" of Catholics united by "a shared spiritual heritage."

"I assure you that the church wants to continue building bridges of friendship with the followers of all religions," Benedict said Monday.

Benedict also repeated his call for strengthening ties between Catholics and members of other Christian denominations.

The Associated Press reported that Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who attended the meeting, was "encouraged by the way Pope Benedict went out of his way to underline the commitment to ecumenism."

But Benedict's attempts to reach out drew a measured response from his counterpart in the Russian Orthodox church.

"We don't know if that's going to affect (relations) with the Russian Orthodox church. The future will show," Interfax new agency quoted Patriarch Alexy II as saying. Metropolitan Kirill, a senior official in the Russian Orthodox church, attended the meeting with Benedict on Alexy's behalf.

Alexy ruled out the possibility of inviting Benedict to Russia in the near future, calling on the new pope to address the proselytizing of Orthodox followers by Catholic missionaries that he alleges went on during John Paul's reign. These accusations led Alexy to block John Paul from visiting Russia in 2004, ending the late pontiff's long-held dream to visit the country.

"There cannot be a visit for the sake of a visit. There cannot be a meeting purely for television cameras," Alexy said Monday.

Later in the evening, Benedict delivered a sermon at the Basilica of St. Paul's Outside the Walls, in which he called evangelization the church's "primary task."

Hundreds of Romans packed the basilica to hear the pontiff deliver an address to inaugurate his ministry to the diocese of Rome.

"For me this is a greatly desired trip, that I make in my name as well as in the name of the beloved Diocese of Rome," he told a crowd.

The German pontiff made no mention that his visit took place on Liberation Day -- an Italian holiday that commemorates Italy's liberation from Nazi occupiers. Benedict's enrollment in the Hitler Youth movement as a teenager riveted the media in the days following his selection to lead the church.

Earlier in the day, Benedict met with a group of German pilgrims who had come to Rome for his installment Mass.

"My roots are in Bavaria, and I'm still Bavarian as bishop of Rome," he told the crowd.

In a humorous tone, Benedict recounted the distress he felt at learning of his selection as Roman Catholicism's first German pope in centuries.

"As the trend in the ballots slowly made me realize that, in a manner of speaking, the guillotine would fall on me, I started to feel quite dizzy," he told the crowd in German.

Stacy Meichtry is a freelance journalist based in Rome. He is reporting and writing for NCR during this period of papal transition.




Pope Says Election Was Like 'Guillotine'


Apr 25, 6:44 PM (ET)

By NICOLE WINFIELD

VATICAN CITY (AP) - Pope Benedict XVI said Monday he felt like a "guillotine" was coming down on him when it appeared he might be elected pontiff, saying he prayed to God to be spared but that "evidently this time he didn't listen to me."

Benedict's playfulness during an audience with German pilgrims offered the first insight into what may have been going on in his mind during the secret conclave that elected him leader of the world's 1.1 billion Catholics.

It also underscored that the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger - known as the stern German guardian of the Vatican's conservative doctrine - has a sense of humor, knows how to work a crowd and seems to be winning over fans.

"As the trend in the ballots slowly made me realize that - in a manner of speaking the guillotine would fall on me - I started to feel quite dizzy," the 78-year-old Benedict told his countrymen in his native German, smiling and chuckling. "I thought that I had done my life's work and could now hope to live out my days in peace.

"I told the Lord with deep conviction, 'Don't do this to me. You have younger and better (candidates) who could take up this great task with a totally different energy and with different strength.'"

"Evidently, this time he didn't listen to me," Benedict joked.

He said that during the secret deliberations, a fellow cardinal wrote him a note, reminding him of the sermon he delivered during the funeral Mass for Pope John Paul II, in which he referred to a biblical passage where God tells the apostle Peter to follow him.

"My fellow brother wrote me: 'If the Lord should now tell you, 'Follow me,' then remember what you preached. Do not refuse. Be obedient. ...This touched my heart. The ways of the Lord are not comfortable, but we were not created for comfort, but for greatness, for good."

"So in the end, all I could do was say yes. I am trusting in God, and I am trusting in you, dear friends."

Benedict was elected the first German pope in centuries on April 19 after four rounds of voting - one of the fastest conclaves in 100 years. While he was a leading candidate going into the conclave, he was considered old to be elected pope.

Benedict officially began his pontificate Sunday during a solemn installation Mass that drew about 400,000 people to the Vatican area, including many world and religious leaders.

The pope met Monday with the religious leaders who had attended, and told Muslim representatives in particular that he wanted to continue building "bridges of friendship" that he said could foster peace in the world.

Benedict noted that the world is now marked by conflicts but said it longs for peace.

"Yet peace is also a duty to which all peoples must be committed, especially those who profess to belong to religious traditions," he said. "Our efforts to come together and foster dialogue are a valuable contribution to building peace on solid foundations."

In the homily Sunday, Benedict specifically mentioned Jews - but not Muslims - and reached out to other Christians, calling several times for full communion of Christians.

On Monday, the pope told ecumenical leaders he fully supports the need to work toward uniting Christians and said their presence at his installation was a good sign.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said afterward that he was "encouraged by the way Pope Benedict went out of his way to underline the commitment to ecumenism."

In Moscow, the head of Russia's Orthodox Church, Patriarch Alexy II, said a visit by Benedict to Russia would be possible only after the two churches resolve longtime differences.

Later Monday, Benedict visited a packed Rome basilica, St. Paul outside the Walls. There, he read a biblical passage from the apostle Paul to the Romans - to show his connection to the city of Rome, where he is bishop. He also prayed by the place where Paul is believed to have been buried.

Thousands gathered outside the church to greet the new pontiff, with elderly people pushing their way through crowds and adults climbing on the shoulders of friends in hopes of seeing Benedict in person.

"He has a different kind of charisma from John Paul," said Anja Tartarini, a 31-year-old actress. "He says he feels inadequate like a child, but with unbelievable humility he accepted this task."

Emanuele Pierantonio, 32, a government employee, said he was moved by Benedict's human touch.

"Someone in my group yelled 'Your Holiness!' to him as he was greeting a baby and then he turned to us, made a nod with his head and I had the impression that he tried to make eye contact with each one of us," Pierantonio said.

Benedict received a rousing welcome by his fellow countrymen during his audience Monday. He shook hands with pilgrims and blessed a child handed to him - but then quickly got down to business.

He apologized for being late, explaining that the meeting with religious leaders had run long. "The Germans are used to punctuality," he joked. "I'm already very Italian."

Benedict was interrupted several times by applause and cheering from the crowds. "Benedict sent from God!" they chanted. In German, the chant rhymes: "Benedikt Gott Geschickt."

"I was quite prejudiced against him at first," said Maria Theising-Otte, a teacher from a Catholic grammar school in Handrup, Lower Saxony, who attended the audience. "But now that I've seen him, read about him, I've changed my mind. I think he came across quite human, very modest and decent."

---

Associated Press reporters Daniela Petroff and Vanessa Gera contributed to this report.




Benedict Says He Prayed Not to Be Elected


Apr 25, 1:11 PM (ET)

By DANIELA PETROFF

VATICAN CITY (AP) - Pope Benedict XVI said Monday he had viewed the idea of being elected pope as a "guillotine," and he prayed to God during the recent conclave to be spared selection but "evidently this time He didn't listen to me."

For the first time since his election, Benedict shed light on his feelings inside the conclave during an audience with fellow Germans.

Speaking in his native tongue, Benedict told the audience that at one point during the conclave, when it became clear he was garnering many votes, a fellow cardinal slipped him a note reminding him what he had preached before the conclave about Christ calling Peter to follow him even where he did not want to go.

Benedict, 78, said he had hoped to spend his last years living quietly and peacefully.

"As the trend in the ballots slowly made me realize that - in a manner of speaking the guillotine would fall on me - I started to feel quite dizzy," a smiling Benedict said, clearly joking. "I thought that I had done my life's work and could now hope to live out my days in peace. I told the Lord with deep conviction, 'Don't do this to me.'"

He recalled saying to God in his prayers: "You have younger, better, more enthusiastic and energetic candidates."

"Evidently, this time He didn't listen to me," Benedict said.

The former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope April 19 after four rounds of balloting in 24 hours, one of the fastest elections in a century. He went into the conclave a leading candidate, but at 78 he was considered old to be named pope.

Benedict was interrupted several times by applause and cheering during the audience, and he seemed to enjoy the welcome from his countrymen, smiling and chuckling occasionally. When he first arrived in the audience hall, he received a hero's welcome, shaking the pilgrims' hands and blessing a child handed to him.

"Benedict sent from God!" the crowds chanted. In German, the chant rhymes: "Benedikt Gott Geschickt."

Pilgrims, some in traditional dress, toted Bavarian flags and a banner for the church's World Youth Day, which is being celebrated in August in Cologne, Germany. Benedict told the crowd he was looking forward to attending, following a tradition beloved by his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, who made reaching out to young Catholics a hallmark of his pontificate.

"It's not true that young people only look at consumerism and materialism," he said. "Young people want great things."

He told them the church is not a place for people seeking a comfortable life, noting that it is difficult to choose to follow Christ.

"He who is looking to be comfortable has come to the wrong address," he said.

He asked for their support, no matter what.

"I ask you for your trust when I make errors or when I say things that aren't easily understood, because the pope has to say these things. If we stick together, then we will find the way."

In the crowd was Benedict's brother, Georg Ratzinger, who also is a priest and traveled to Rome for his younger brother's inauguration. He received warm applause from the crowd when he arrived.

Benedict played to the crowd, telling them: "My roots are in Bavaria and I'm still Bavarian as bishop of Rome."

At the start of the audience, Benedict apologized to the crowds for arriving late, explaining that a meeting with religious leaders who attended his inauguration Mass ran long.

"The Germans are used to punctuality," he joked. "I'm already very Italian."

Many people in the crowd said they were thrilled with Benedict's election and were surprised to find him so warm when he has had such a dour reputation as head of the Vatican's doctrinal orthodoxy office.

"I was so surprised. I didn't know he was so personable," said Annette Wilkemeyer. "This is great, especially for the young."




Russia Church Urges Resolve With Catholics


Apr 25, 11:06 AM (ET)

MOSCOW (AP) - The head of the Russian Orthodox Church said Monday a visit by Pope Benedict XVI to Russia would be possible only after the two churches resolve their longtime differences.

"There cannot be a visit for the sake of a visit. There cannot be a meeting purely for television cameras," the Interfax new agency quoted Patriarch Alexy II as saying.

Relations between the world's two largest Christian communities have been tense amid Russian allegations of Catholic proselytizing. The tensions prevented the late John Paul II from visiting Russia - a trip he had dreamed of making as part of his efforts to reconcile the two churches.

Commenting Monday on Benedict's pledge to develop dialogue with other religions, Alexy said: "We don't know if that's going to affect (relations) with the Russian Orthodox Church. The future will show."

Alexy said the problems that the Russian church wanted addressed remained unchanged: alleged eastward Catholic expansion and alleged discrimination against Orthodox Christians in western Ukraine.

The centuries-old divisions grew after the collapse of the Soviet Union, as Roman Catholics tried to reassert their presence even as the Russian church was working to restore the clout it had lost under Communist rule.

Some observers said Benedict may lack the zeal John Paul had for closer ties.





Pope's Coat of Arms Has Bavarian Elements


Apr 25, 3:14 PM (ET)

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) - Pope Benedict XVI has included traditional Bavarian elements and a nod to St. Augustine in his papal coat of arms, the diocese of Munich and Friesing said Monday.

A crowned Ethiopian, a bear and a mussel - all of which appear on the insignia of the diocese - also appear in the three-sectored insignia chosen by Benedict.

The bear, which is saddled with heavy packs, symbolizes the weight of the papal office, the diocese said in a statement.

It has its origins in a Bavarian legend concerning the diocese's patron, Korbinian, who encountered the animal while on a trip to Rome. The bear ate Korbinian's mule, and God saddled it with the mule's packs.

The mussel dates back to a parable by St. Augustine - about whose works the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote his final thesis - and symbolizes "diving into the groundless sea of God," the diocese said.

At an audience in Rome with German pilgrims Monday, Benedict shook hands and kissed children, telling them "my roots are in Bavaria and I'm still Bavarian as bishop of Rome."

Ratzinger served as archbishop of Munich before being summoned to Rome in 1981 to become the Vatican's doctrinal watchdog.




Pope Is Forgetful, Elder Brother Says


Apr 25, 8:17 AM (ET)

BERLIN (Reuters) - Feeling frustrated because you can't remember where you left something? Don't worry: even the Pope loses things sometimes.

The new Pope Benedict's elder brother, Georg Ratzinger, 81, told Germany's Bild am Sonntag newspaper Sunday that the pontiff's main weakness was his forgetfulness.

"He sometimes misplaces things, and all of a sudden doesn't know where his watch, his keys or a specific paper are anymore," the paper quoted Ratzinger as saying.

What does Georg value most in his sibling, who is 78?

"His clarity of thought," his patience and "that we help each other out," Bild am Sonntag quoted him as saying.

Georg Ratzinger, who is a priest, has previously been quoted as saying his brother might be too old for his new job.

He attended Sunday's inaugural papal Mass by the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger but said he had not brought a gift for a man who had everything.

He said he planned to ask his brother for just one thing - "His direct telephone number."




Pope Benedict XVI Reaches Out to Muslims


Apr 25, 10:56 AM (ET)

By NICOLE WINFIELD

VATICAN CITY (AP) - A day after reaching out to other Christians and to Jews in his installation Mass, Pope Benedict XVI met Monday with members of the Muslim community, assuring them the church wanted to continue building "bridges of friendship" that he said could foster peace in the world.

Benedict made the comments while meeting with religious leaders who attended Sunday's installation ceremony, saying he was particularly grateful that members of the Muslim community were present.

"I express my appreciation for the growth of dialogue between Muslims and Christians, both at the local and international level," he said.

He noted that the world is marked by conflicts but longs for peace.

"Yet peace is also a duty to which all peoples must be committed, especially those who profess to belong to religious traditions," he said. "Our efforts to come together and foster dialogue are a valuable contribution to building peace on solid foundations.

"It is therefore imperative to engage in authentic and sincere dialogue, built on respect for the dignity of every human person, created as we Christians firmly believe, in the image and likeness of God," he said.

Later, Benedict kiddingly told an audience of German pilgrims that at one point during the conclave he viewed the idea of being elected pope as a "guillotine," and he prayed to God to be spared selection.

"As the trend in the ballots slowly made me realize that - in a manner of speaking, the guillotine would fall on me - I started to feel quite dizzy," a smiling Benedict said, clearly joking. "I thought that I had done my life's work and could now hope to live out my days in peace. I told the Lord with deep conviction, 'Don't do this to me.'"

Speaking in his native German, Benedict, 78, told the audience that a cardinal slipped him a note of paper reminding him what he had preached about Christ calling Peter to follow him even if he did not want to go.

"Evidently, this time he didn't listen to me," the pontiff said.

Benedict was interrupted several times by applause and cheering, and he seemed to enjoy the welcome from his countrymen, smiling and chuckling. He apologized for being late, saying the meeting with the religious leaders had been "heartfelt" and had gone late.

"The Germans are used to punctuality," he joked. "I'm already very Italian."

The Vatican did not say which Muslim leaders attended the meeting, which was closed to the press.

But it did release a list of those who attended Sunday's Mass, including Saeed Taghavi, head of the office of religious minorities in Iran's culture ministry, and the head of Rome's central mosque.

Two dozen Buddhist representatives also were on the list, which included the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams; Metropolitan Chrisostomos, a top envoy for Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world's Christian Orthodox Church; and a senior representative of the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Kirill.

Most Jewish leaders could not attend the Mass because it coincided with Passover.

"I assure you that the church wants to continue building bridges of friendship with the followers of all religions, in order to seek the true good of every person and of society as a whole," Benedict said.

The message was significant because Benedict had left out any specific mention of Muslims in his inaugural homily, although he had directed a greeting to "believers and nonbelievers alike."

In the homily, he specifically mentioned Jews, calling them his "brothers and sisters" who were joined with Catholics in a "shared spiritual heritage." He also called several times for full communion of Christians.

Benedict repeated that message Monday, telling ecumenical leaders that he fully supported the need to work toward uniting Christians divided by schism and saying the ecumenical presence at his installation was a good sign.

"Your presence, dear brothers in Christ, beyond that which divides us and casts a shadow over our full and visible communion, is a sign of sharing and support for the bishop of Rome, which can count on you for following the path in the hope and for the belief toward he who is the head, the Christ," he said.

In his homily Sunday, Benedict - who has a reputation as a hard-liner for leading Vatican crackdowns on dissidents - said he wanted to shape his papacy by being a "listener" and not set off by imposing his own ideas.

"My real program of governance is not to do my own will, not to pursue my own ideas, but to listen, together with the whole church, to the word and the will of the Lord," Benedict said in his inauguration homily.

The pope did not elaborate, but the speech suggested his papacy could study some pressing issues, such as greater social activism and ways to reverse the decline of church attendance and the dwindling number of priests in the West. In his previous role as guardian of church teaching, he had staunchly opposed calls for fundamental changes such as ending bans on contraception or for allowing women to become priests.

"I was quite prejudiced against him at first," said Maria Theising-Otte, a teacher from a Catholic grammar school in Handrup, Lower Saxony, who was among the German pilgrims lining up for their audience with the pope.

"But now that I've seen him, read about him, I've changed my mind. I think he came across quite human, very modest and decent," during his installation Mass on Sunday, she said.

She was with 1,800 students from the Gymnasium Leonium Handrup who traveled to Rome - a trip that was originally planned for the canonization Sunday for the founder of their school, Leo Dehon, but postponed after Pope John Paul II died April 2.

"You never know when you have a chance to do it again, to see him face to face," she said.

Later Monday, Benedict was to celebrate a Mass at a Rome basilica, St. Paul Outside the Walls.

Since being elected pope April 19, Benedict has sought a more inclusive image.

Benedict's effort to reach out to Jews carries an added dimension because of his membership in the Hitler Youth and later as a German army conscript during World War II. He has said he was forced into participating.

"With his German background, I certainly believe that he will be sympathetic toward Jews and I think he will continue the path of John Paul II, who made some very significant symbolic gestures," said Menachem Friedman, a sociology professor at Bar Ilan University in Israel. "But I think it is much too early to comment."
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