04/19/2006, 00.00
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Benedict XVI: Becoming pope one year ago, "absolutely unexpected and surprising"

He recalled his election at the general audience, addressing a crowd of 60,000 pilgrims. "I recall with emotion the first impression I had from the central balcony of the basilica, of pilgrims gathered in this very square."

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – A year has passed since the conclave of cardinals "decided to choose my poor person to succeed the lamented and loved great pope John Paul II", something "absolutely unexpected and surprising for me", Benedict XVI said today. The memory of 19 April 2005 was the first thing he spoke about at the general audience, on the first anniversary of his election. Interrupted no less than seven times by applause from the 60,000 pilgrims present, the pope said: "I recall with emotion the first impression I had as I looked down from the central balcony of the basilica, of pilgrims gathered in this very square; it has stayed in my mind and heart." This encounter and others recalled today by Benedict XVI have given him the opportunity to experience the truth of what he would say in the inauguration mass of his pontificate. He had said: "I have the strong awareness that I must not carry alone what I would not actually be able to bear". That is, the burden of the pontificate, in which "the Lord never stops short of assisting me with his indispensable help". The pope added: "The support of God and the saints cannot be substituted by anything, and your closeness, dear friends, comforts me, you who never cease to offer me the gift of your indulgence and your love. I thank from my heart all those are by my side in various ways, from near and also from far, spiritually, with their affection and their prayers: to each of you, I ask that you continue to sustain me and to pray to God to allow me to be a meek and steady pastor of his Church."

A festive atmosphere reigned at the 47th general audience of Benedict XVI. Yellow and white flowers decked the church square, together with flags, banners and more than 50,000 people who wanted to be there today, bringing the number of people who met Benedict XVI at the Vatican to more than four million. According to statistics of the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household, many people came to Rome to attend general or special audiences, the Sunday Angelus or liturgical celebrations presided over by Benedict XVI. Specifically, 1,121,500 took part in 47 general audiences, 384,900 in special audiences, 697,200 in liturgical celebrations and 1,875,000 in the Sunday Angelus.

Benedict XVI chose to place today's festive feeling in the context of the joy of Easter. He reminded the faithful of the first moments of the Risen Lord with the women and the apostles. The Gospel message, "the nucleus of which is the Easter mystery", was spread "with courage" to the ends of the earth, by them and their successors. And still today, he added, "each Christian is called to proclaim the Gospel". When greeting youth he sad: "Christ exhorts and invites you too to be his witnesses."

At the end of the audience, greeting Italian pilgrims, he said: "Thank you for your affection and friendship."

For the anniversary of his election, the newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, published a 12-page special with the front and back pages in colour, which trace the journey of the pope's first year through images and extracts of his teachings.

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