Benedict XVI's Address at 1st General Audience

«To Reflect on the Name I Have Chosen»

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 27, 2005 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today at his first general audience since being elected Pope. The audience was in St. Peter’s Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

I am happy to welcome you and cordially greet all of you here present, as well as those who are following us through radio and television. As I already expressed in my first meeting with the Lord Cardinals, precisely on Wednesday of last week in the Sistine Chapel, I am experiencing contrasting sentiments in my spirit these days at the beginning of my Petrine ministry: awe and gratitude to God, who surprised me first of all, in calling me to succeed the Apostle Peter; interior trepidation before the enormity of the task and responsibility that has been entrusted to me. However, the certainty of the help of God, of his Most Holy Mother, the Virgin Mary, and of the patron saints gives me serenity and joy. I am also supported by the spiritual closeness of the whole People of God from whom, as I repeated last Sunday, I continue to request to support me with insistent prayer.

After the holy death of my venerated predecessor, John Paul II, the traditional Wednesday general audiences are resumed today. In this first meeting I would like first of all to reflect on the name I have chosen when becoming Bishop of Rome and Pastor of the universal Church. I wished to call myself Benedict XVI to be united ideally with the venerated Pontiff Benedict XV, who led the Church in a troubled time because of World War I. He was a courageous and authentic prophet of peace and he did his utmost with strenuous courage from the start to avoid the drama of the war and then to limit its inauspicious consequences. Following his footsteps, I wish to put my ministry at the service of reconciliation and harmony among men and nations, profoundly convinced that the great good of peace is, first of all, a gift of God, a fragile and precious gift to be invoked, defended and built day after day with the contribution of all.

The name Benedict evokes, moreover, the extraordinary figure of the great «patriarch of Western monasticism,» St. Benedict of Nursia, co-patron of Europe together with Saints Cyril and Methodius. The gradual expansion of the Benedictine Order founded by him has had an enormous influence on the spread of Christianity on the whole Continent. Because of this, St. Benedict is much venerated in Germany and, in particular, in Bavaria, my native land. He constitutes a fundamental point of reference for the unity of Europe and a strong reminder of the inalienable Christian roots of its culture and its civilization.

We know the recommendation left to his monks in his Rule by this Father of Western monasticism: «Prefer absolutely nothing to Christ» (Rule 72,11; cf. 4,21). At the beginning of my service as Successor of Peter I pray to St. Benedict to help us to hold firm the centrality of Christ in our life. May he always be first in our thoughts and in all our activity!

My thought goes back with affection to my venerated predecessor, John Paul II, to whom we are indebted for an extraordinary spiritual legacy. «Our Christian communities» — he wrote in the apostolic letter «Novo Millennio Ineunte» — «must become genuine ‘schools’ of prayer, where the meeting with Christ is expressed not just in imploring help but also in thanksgiving, praise, adoration, contemplation, listening and ardent devotion, until the heart truly ‘falls in love'» (No. 33).

He himself sought to put these indications into practice by dedicating the Wednesday catecheses of the last times to commenting on the Psalms of lauds and vespers. As he did at the start of his pontificate, when he wished to continue with the reflections initiated by his Predecessor on the Christian virtues (cf. «Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II,» I [1978], pp. 60-63), I also intend to propose in the next weekly appointments the commentary prepared by him on the second part of the Psalms and canticles that make up vespers. Next Wednesday I will take up again, precisely, from where his catecheses were interrupted, in the general audience of last January 26.

Dear Friends, thank you again for your visit; thank you for the affection with which you surround me. They are sentiments that I cordially return with a special blessing, which I impart to you here present, to your families and to all your loved ones.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[At the end of the audience, the Holy Father summarized his address in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It is with great joy that I welcome you and also greet those following this audience through radio and television. After the holy death of my beloved predecessor, Pope John Paul II, I come before you today for my first general audience.

Filled with sentiments of awe and thanksgiving, I wish to speak of why I chose the name Benedict. Firstly, I remember Pope Benedict XV, that courageous prophet of peace, who guided the Church through turbulent times of war. In his footsteps I place my ministry in the service of reconciliation and harmony between peoples.

Additionally, I recall St. Benedict of Nursia, co-patron of Europe, whose life evokes the Christian roots of Europe. I ask him to help us all to hold firm to the centrality of Christ in our Christian life: May Christ always take first place in our thoughts and actions!

I extend a special welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims here today, including groups from England, Wales, Ireland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Australia, Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Singapore and the United States of America. Thank you for the affection with which you have greeted me. Upon all of you, I invoke the peace and joy of Jesus Christ Our Lord!

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