POPE Benedict XVI has pledged to lead the Church on the path of unity, dialogue and evangelisation.
“I turn to everyone with simplicity and affection, to assure them that the Church wants to continue to build an open and sincere dialogue with them, in the search of the true good of man and society,” he said at the end of a liturgy in the Sistine Chapel on April 20, with the cardinals who elected him.
Dressed in light gold vestments, the Pope read his four-page Latin message in a clear and forceful voice, paying tribute to Pope John Paul II and outlining the priorities of his own pontificate.
Pope Benedict said that, like his predecessor, he considered the Second Vatican Council the compass for the modern Church.
In particular, he stressed his commitment to ecumenism and dialogue and said he was aware that “concrete gestures” were sometimes needed to promote breaking through old antagonisms.
At the same time, he said the chief priority for the modern Church is to announce Christ to the world.
The white-haired Pope faced 114 cardinals seated at the same long tables used in the papal election and spoke from a chair beneath Michelangelo’s fresco of the “Last Judgment”.
The Pope said he had been completely surprised at his election, which came on the fourth ballot of the conclave. He said he began his papacy with two emotions — a sense of “inadequacy” and the confidence that God would help him.