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Pope Pledges to Work for Reconciliation, Peace


Pope Benedict XVI greets the crowd before the General Audience in St. Peter's Square
Pope Benedict XVI held the first general audience of his new papacy Wednesday, pledging to work for reconciliation and peace. The crowd welcomed him enthusiastically.

Under a bright sun and blue skies, thousands of pilgrims filled Saint Peter's Square for the new pope's first general audience.

He delighted the crowds again when he appeared in his open-topped white jeep and was driven in the square. The crowd waved and cheered. They called out his name.

It was Pope Benedict's second appearance in the jeep and the crowd reacted enthusiastically. They seemed to be really enjoying seeing him up so close and not behind bullet-proof glass. But security guards were close at hand.

Then the pope sat on his throne in front of Saint Peter's Basilica facing the crowd. First he addressed them in Italian.

He said he still has mixed feelings about his election, feelings of awe and thanksgiving. He told them of his "interior trepidation in the face of the enormity of the task and responsibilities" that have been entrusted to him.

The pope explained to the crowd why he chose his name. Pope Benedict XV was a brave 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," the pope said. He also said the name Benedict brings to mind Europe's deep Christian roots.

Pope Benedict's first audience was a taste of what is to come during his papacy. From the start he's has been showing that he intends to be a pope of the people, just like his predecessor, mingling with the crowds and addressing them in various languages.

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