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Pope Benedict Says His Election Was a Surprise

Pope Benedict XVI says his election as pontiff this year came as a complete surprise. He made the comment during the year-end meeting with cardinals the pope holds annually at the Vatican.

Pope Benedict addressed cardinals and the Roman curia in the Clementine Hall in the Vatican and reviewed what he called the "great events," that affected the Catholic Church in 2005.

First he spoke of the death of Pope John Paul II, which, he said, was preceded by a long path of suffering and the gradual loss of his speech.

No pope before him, he said, left us so many writings or visited the world like he did speaking with people from all continents. But in the end, he added, Pope John Paul's path was one of suffering and silence.

He also recalled the funeral of the Polish pope, who was elected in 1978.

The pontiff said the response from all over the world to the death of Pope John Paul was "a devastating show of recognition for his ministry, in which he gave himself totally to God for the world."

And he added: "It was giving thanks to Pope John Paul for teaching us once again how to love and suffer in the service of others, in a world filled with hatred and violence."

Recalling his own election on April 19, the pope said he was faced with a task that was completely beyond anything that he would ever have imagined as his vocation. He recalled, as he put it, the "fright" with which he had received the news.

He added, that he had accepted the job only because of his great faith in God. He asked for prayers from the faithful to sustain him in his mission.

In his speech, Pope Benedict also reflected on this year's 40th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, which modernized the church.

He acknowledged that various Church factions were divided over the correct interpretation of Council documents, but said all sides should be able to find common ground in the "spirit" of the Council's reforms.