Benedict XVI Prayed That Someone Else Be Elected

“I Asked God to Spare Me This Fate,” He Tells Countrymen

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 25, 2005 ( Benedict XVI says that he prayed during the conclave for the cardinals to elect someone stronger than he to the papacy.

The new Pope added, however, that after he was elected, he accepted it with an inevitable “yes.”

“I prayed to the Lord that they would elect someone stronger than I, but in that prayer he obviously did not listen to me,” the Holy Father said today during a meeting in Paul VI Hall with some 5,000 Germans who came to Rome to support him at the start of his pontificate.

“I want to tell you something about the conclave without violating the secrecy,” the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said. “I never thought I would be elected, nor did I do anything to make it happen, but when slowly the unfolding of the votes led me to understand that the ‘guillotine’ was coming closer and looking at me, I asked God to spare me this fate.”

He said he then remembered a letter that he had with him from a German cardinal. That cardinal reminded his countryman what he said at Pope John Paul II’s funeral Mass, quoting Jesus’ words to Peter, and encouraged him that “if the Lord addressed that ‘follow me’ to me, I could not refuse the call.”

“The Lord’s ways are not easy, but we are not made for ease; therefore, I could only say ‘yes’ to the election,” Benedict XVI said in German in his impromptu address to his compatriots.

“I thought that my work in this life had ended and that years of tranquility awaited me,” he added.

Before making these revelations, the Holy Father mingled with the people in his first public audience.

Some 5,000 people, with German and Bavarian flags, acclaimed and applauded him during the four minutes in which he shook hands as he walked the length of the auditorium before reaching the podium.

The cheers and cries of “Benedict, Benedict,” first in Italian and then in German, followed one another as the Pope made his way among his fellow countrymen, who shortly before cheered his brother, the priest Georg Ratzinger.

“I have been in Rome for 23 years, but I am from Bavaria,” said the Pontiff in German to the crowd, before apologizing for arriving late: “I know that Germans are used to being very punctual. Perhaps I have become Italianized.”

In his address to his compatriots, in addition to referring to his election, he expressed how much he is looking forward to his trip to Cologne in August for World Youth Day.

He also told his listeners: “We walk together and I trust in your help and ask you for understanding if I make mistakes, as happens to any man, and that you give me your trust.”

At the end of the audience, Cardinal Friedrich Wetter, his successor as archbishop of Munich, gave the Pope a gold pectoral cross, a gift from that diocese in Bavaria.

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