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Pope Celebrates First Anniversary

  • Sabina Castelfranco

Pope Benedict XVI is marking the first anniversary of his pontificate.

Cheers and yells echoed around Saint Peter's Square on Wednesday during the Pope Benedict's weekly general audience, which coincided with the first anniversary of his election as pontiff. "How time flies," the pope told 60,000 pilgrims gathered in the square.

Visibly touched, the 79-year-old German pontiff addressed the enthusiastic crowd and recalled his election. "Already one year has gone by," Benedict said, "from when the cardinals at the conclave so unexpectedly chose my poor person to succeed the late and beloved great Pope John Paul II."

"I remember with emotion my first impact from the central loggia of the basilica immediately after my election with the pilgrims gathered in this same square - the image has remained in my mind and heart," the Pope Benedict said.

The pope said he always knew he could not do this job, this mission, alone and thanked those who remain close to him and follow him spiritually with affection and prayers.

"To each one of you, I ask you to continue to support me praying to God to let me be his gentle and firm pastor of his church," said the pope.

Benedict was the first German pope to be elected in nearly 1,000 years. He had been a favorite going into the conclave. He had served his predecessor for 23 years as head of the powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, until his election on April 19, 2005.

He had a reputation as a hard-line conservative and many feared his papacy would bring tough new pronouncements. Instead Pope Benedict has eased gently into his new role. With simplicity he has won over the record number of faithful who turn out at his audiences and masses.

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