Benedict XVI's Address at his first General Audience

"To Reflect on the Name I Have Chosen"  (April 27, 2005)

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 27, 2005 (Zenit.org).- 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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April 19 Address on 1st Anniversary of Pontificate
"Alone I Could Not Carry Out This Task"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 27, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave at the Wednesday general audience on April 19, the first anniversary of his pontificate.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At the beginning of today's general audience which is taking place in the joyful atmosphere of Easter, I would like to thank the Lord together with you. After calling me, exactly a year ago, to serve the Church as the Successor of the Apostle Peter -- thank you for your joy, thank you for your applause -- he never fails to assist me with his indispensable help.

How quickly time passes! A year has already elapsed since the cardinals gathered in conclave and, in a way I found absolutely unexpected and surprising, desired to choose my poor self to succeed the late and beloved Servant of God, the great Pope John Paul II. I remember with emotion my first impact with the faithful gathered in this same square, from the central loggia of the basilica, immediately after my election.

That meeting is still impressed upon my mind and heart. It was followed by many others that have given me an opportunity to experience the deep truth of my words at the solemn concelebration with which I formally began to exercise my Petrine ministry: "I too can say with renewed conviction: I am not alone. I do not have to carry alone what in truth I could never carry alone" (L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, April 27, 2005, p. 2).

And I feel more and more that alone I could not carry out this task, this mission. But I also feel that you are carrying it with me: Thus, I am in a great communion and together we can go ahead with the Lord's mission. The heavenly protection of God and of the saints is an irreplaceable support to me and I am comforted by your closeness, dear friends, who do not let me do without the gift of your indulgence and your love. I offer very warm thanks to all those who in various ways support me from close at hand or follow me from afar in spirit with their affection and their prayers. I ask each one to continue to support me, praying to God to grant that I may be a gentle and firm Pastor of his Church.

The Evangelist John says that precisely after his Resurrection Jesus called Peter to tend his flock (cf. John 21:15,23). Who could have humanly imagined then the development which was to mark that small group of the Lord's disciples down the centuries?

Peter, together with the apostles and then their successors, first in Jerusalem and later to the very ends of the earth, courageously spread the Gospel message, whose fundamental and indispensable core consists in the paschal mystery: the passion, the death and the resurrection of Christ.

The Church celebrates this mystery at Easter, extending its joyous resonance in the days that follow; she sings the alleluia for Christ's triumph over evil and death.
The celebration of Easter in accordance with a date on the calendar, Pope St. Leo the Great remarked, reminds us of the eternal feast that surpasses all human time. Today's Easter, he noted further, is the shadow of the future Easter. For this reason we celebrate it, to move on from an annual celebration to a celebration that will last forever.

The joy of these days extends throughout the liturgical year and is renewed especially on Sunday, the day dedicated to the memory of the Lord's resurrection. On Sunday, as it were, the "little Easter" of every week, the liturgical assembly gathered for holy Mass proclaims in the Creed that Jesus rose on the third day, adding that we wait for "the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come."

This shows that the event of Jesus' death and resurrection constitutes the center of our faith and that it is on this proclamation that the Church is founded and develops.

St. Augustine recalled incisively: "Let us consider, dear friends, the Resurrection of Christ: indeed, just as his Passion stood for our old life, his Resurrection is a sacrament of new life. ... You have believed, you have been baptized; the old life is dead, killed on the Cross, buried in Baptism. The old life in which you lived is buried: The new life emerges. Live well: Live life in such a way that when death comes you will not die (Sermo Guelferb. 9, 3).

The Gospel accounts that mention the appearances of the Risen One usually end with the invitation to overcome every uncertainty, to confront the event with the Scriptures, to proclaim that Jesus, beyond death, is alive forever, a source of new life for all who believe in him.

This is what happened, for example, in the case of Mary Magdalene (cf. John 20:11-18), who found the tomb open and empty and immediately feared that the body of the Lord had been taken away. The Lord then called her by name and at that point a deep change took place within her: Her distress and bewilderment were transformed into joy and enthusiasm. She promptly went to the apostles and announced to them: "I have seen the Lord" (John 20:18).

Behold: Those who meet the risen Jesus are inwardly transformed; it is impossible "to see" the Risen One without "believing" in him. Let us pray that he will call each one of us by name and thus convert us, opening us to the "vision" of faith.

Faith is born from the personal encounter with the Risen Christ and becomes an impulse of courage and freedom that makes one cry to the world: "Jesus is risen and alive for ever."

This is the mission of the Lord's disciples in every epoch and also in our time: "If, then, you have been raised with Christ," St. Paul exhorts us, "seek the things that are above. ... Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth" (Colossians 3:1-2). This does not mean cutting oneself off from one's daily commitments, neglecting earthly realities; rather, it means reviving every human activity with a supernatural breath, it means making ourselves joyful proclaimers and witnesses of the resurrection of Christ, living for eternity (cf. John 20:25; Luke 24:33-34).

Dear brothers and sisters, in the Pasch of his Only-begotten Son, God fully revealed himself, his victorious power over the forces of death, the power of Trinitarian Love. May the Virgin Mary, who was closely associated with the Passion, death and Resurrection of the Son and at the foot of the cross became the Mother of all believers, help us to understand this mystery of love that changes hearts and makes us experience fully the joy of Easter, so that we in turn may be able to communicate it to the men and women of the third millennium.