World Leaders Attend Benedict XVI's Inauguration

Heads of State, Royalty, Religious Leaders Greet New Pope

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 24, 2005 ( Political and religious representatives from around the world surrounded Benedict XVI during his inauguration Mass.

Many of the dignitaries, who said their last farewell to Pope John Paul II on April 8, returned today to St. Peter’s Square to greet the new Pontiff, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, in a ceremony followed by some 400,000 faithful, including 140 official delegations.

As Pope, Benedict XVI has become head of the smallest state in the word, as well as leader of the world’s 1 billion Catholics.

On hard for the inauguration were close to 40 heads of sate and government, in addition to representatives of royal houses, many of whom saw Cardinal Ratzinger preside at John Paul II’s funeral two weeks ago in his capacity as dean of the College of Cardinals.

Benedict XVI presided at the Mass that officially begins his pontificate. The Mass began with the prolonged applause of dignitaries and faithful.

From reserved places on the right of the Vatican esplanade, the rite was followed by royal houses, among them the King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía of Spain; the Duke of Edinburgh, husband of Queen Elizabeth II of England; and the heirs to the Belgian throne.

Also present was William of Holland; the Grand Dukes of Luxembourg, Henry and Teresa; and Prince Albert of Monaco, with a black band on his chest as a sign of mourning for his recently deceased father, Prince Rainier.

In the rows immediately behind, 30 heads of state and government, most of them from Europe and Latin America, followed the ceremony.

From Germany, the new Pope’s homeland, came Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and President Horst Köhler, who were seated near other leaders, such as Austrian President Heinz Fischer; French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin; and Italian President Carlo Ciampi.

From Latin America came Argentina’s President Nestor Kirchner; Colombia’s Álvaro Uribe; Honduras’ Ricardo Maduro; Paraguay’s Nicanor Duarte; El Salvador’s Elias Antonio Saca; and the Dominican Republic’s Leonel Fernández. The United States sent Florida Governor Jeb Bush, the president’s brother.

At the end of the solemn ceremony, and after a visibly moved Benedict XVI went around St. Peter’s Square in a convertible car, the dignitaries went into St. Peter’s Basilica to greet the Pontiff.

In a long and respectful line the world leaders and their respective delegations went up to greet him, seated before the Altar of the Confession, near Bernini’s famous baldachino.

The first to exchange greetings with the Pope were leaders of his native land, President Köhler and Chancellor Schröder.

Some greeted the Pope in a very warm manner, especially the Polish delegation headed by President Aleksander Kwasniewski.

Among the numerous high-ranking foreign representatives were envoys from Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Promoter of ecumenical dialogue and Christian unity, Benedict XVI was also surrounded by religious leaders from around the world.

Among them was the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, in addition to representatives of the Orthodox Churches, such as Metropolitan Kirill of the Moscow Patriarchate and Archbishop Chrysostomos of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

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