In his first general audience, which was held this morning in St. Peter's Square in the presence of 15,000 people, the Pope again gave thanks to God for having elected him as Peter's successor, and explained why he chose the name of Benedict.
The Holy Father spoke of the feelings he was experiencing at the beginning of his ministry: "awe and gratitude to God, Who surprised me more than anyone in calling me to succeed the Apostle Peter; and interior trepidation before the greatness of the task and the responsibilities which have been entrusted to me. However, I draw serenity and joy from the certainty of God's help, that of His most Holy Mother the Virgin Mary, and of the patron saints. I also feel supported by the spiritual closeness of all the people of God whom, as I repeated last Sunday, I continue to ask to accompany me with persistent prayer."
"Resuming the Wednesday general audiences," he went on, "I wish to speak of the name I chose on becoming bishop of Rome and pastor of the universal Church. I chose to call myself Benedict XVI ideally as a link to the venerated Pontiff, Benedict XV, who guided the Church through the turbulent times of the First World War. He was a true and courageous prophet of peace who struggled strenuously and bravely, first to avoid the drama of war and then to limit its terrible consequences. In his footsteps I place my ministry, in the service of reconciliation and harmony between peoples, profoundly convinced that the great good of peace is above all a gift of God, a fragile and precious gift to be invoked, safeguarded and constructed, day after day and with everyone's contribution.
"The name Benedict also evokes the extraordinary figure of the great 'patriarch of western monasticism,' St. Benedict of Norcia, co-patron of Europe with Cyril and Methodius. The progressive expansion of the Benedictine Order which he founded exercised an enormous influence on the spread of Christianity throughout the European continent. For this reason, St. Benedict is much venerated in Germany, and especially in Bavaria, my own land of origin; he constitutes a fundamental point of reference for the unity of Europe and a powerful call to the irrefutable Christian roots of European culture and civilization."
The Pope appealed to St. Benedict for help "to hold firm Christ's central position in our lives. May he always be first in our thoughts and in all our activities!"
Before concluding, Benedict XVI announced that, just as at the beginning of his pontificate John Paul II had continued the reflections on Christian virtues begun by Pope John Paul I, in coming weekly audiences he would resume "the comments prepared by John Paul II on the second part of the Psalms and Canticles, which are part of Vespers. From next Wednesday, I will begin precisely from where his catechesis was interrupted after the general audience of January 26."
The Holy Father read out brief summaries of his catechesis, which he had delivered in Italian, in various other languages: English, French, Spanish and German. He then gave brief greetings to various groups in Croatian, Slovenian and Polish and concluded by addressing the 1,000 faithful from the archdiocese of Spoleto-Norcia, Italy, who were accompanied by Archbishop Riccardo Fontana.