The faithful cheered and the bells of the Sistine Chapel tolled in celebration as the newly inaugurated Pope Benedict XVI blessed the 500,000-member crowd from his open-air jeep in St. Peter’s Square.
Pope Benedict XVI received the woolen pallium and Fisherman’s Ring during the three-hour Solemn Mass of Inauguration of the Pontificate, celebrated this morning at 10 a.m. Rome time.
Although Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Pope Tuesday, and has been acting in that role since then, the mass of inauguration marked the official start of his papacy.
Prior to the mass, Pope Benedict prayed at the tomb of St. Peter. The crowds cheered as he emerged on the basilica steps for the mass. Among the many banners in the crowd, one read: “We are with you, Benedict.” He wore a gold miter and a gold vestment with embroidered seashells running down the front.
The seashells seemed to make reference to a personal symbol for the Pope. When he served as archbishop of Munich, he had placed the image of a seashell on his coat of arms representing the traditional sign of the pilgrim. Pope Benedict also carried a crosier, styled after that of John Paul II.
During his homily, which was punctuated often with spontaneous applause, Pope Benedict professed his commitment to work for unity and asked for the faithful to pray for him. He also extended a special greeting to the Jewish people, “to whom we are joined by a great shared spiritual heritage, one rooted in God’s irrevocable promises,” he said.
He spoke of his role as a shepherd and fisherman. “One of the basic characteristics of a shepherd must be to love the people entrusted to him, even as he loves Christ whom he serves. ‘Feed my sheep’, says Christ to Peter, and now, at this moment, he says it to me as well,” the Pope said.
“Feeding means loving, and loving also means being ready to suffer. Loving means giving the sheep what is truly good, the nourishment of God’s truth, of God’s word, the nourishment of his presence, which he gives us in the Blessed Sacrament.
“My dear friends – at this moment I can only say: pray for me, that I may learn to love the Lord more and more. Pray for me, that I may learn to love his flock more and more – in other words, you, the holy Church, each one of you and all of you together,” he continued. “Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves. Let us pray for one another, that the Lord will carry us and that we will learn to carry one another.”
The Pope ended his homily with a message for youth, urging them, as John Paul II did, to not be afraid to follow Christ, who holds the keys to true happiness.
Break from tradition brings added meaning
The Pope received the pallium from senior cardinal-deacon Cardinal Jorge Median Estevez, after the Gospel, which was read in Latin and Greek. The pallium, which was designed a little longer than usual, is decorated with five red crosses, referring to the five wounds of the crucified Christ.
Cardinal Angelo Sodano then gave the pontiff his Fisherman's Ring, which is emblazoned with an image of St. Peter casting a net.
In a break with tradition, Pope Benedict will wear this ring continually. In the past, the Fisherman's Ring has been used as a formal seal to mark official documents; the pontiffs have ordinarily worn their own episcopal rings.
The mass for the 264th successor of St. Peter had another variation. The Pope did not receive congratulatory greeting from all members of the College of Cardinals, as is the usual custom. Rather, nine people, representing the various members of the Church, warmly greeted him: a bishop, a priest, a deacon, two religious, a married couple, and two young people.
> For the full homily, go to: