Correction to This Article
Articles on April 25 and 26 about Pope Benedict XVI said that St. Peter was the founder of the Roman Catholic Church. According to the church, Jesus was the founder.

Pope Prayed That He Wouldn't Get the Job

By Daniel Williams
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, April 26, 2005

ROME, April 25 -- Pope Benedict XVI told pilgrims from his native Germany on Monday that during the conclave that elected him last week, he prayed that he wouldn't get the job.

Meeting with hundreds of cheering visitors in the huge Paul VI Hall at Vatican City, he recounted his misgivings. "As the trend in the ballots slowly made me realize that -- in a manner of speaking, the guillotine would fall on me -- I started to feel quite dizzy," he said.

"I thought that I had done my life's work and could now hope to live out my days in peace," he said. "I told the Lord with deep conviction, 'Don't do this to me. You have younger, better candidates with more elan and strength.' "

He told the group: "Evidently, on this occasion He didn't listen to me."

Then known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he could have eliminated himself from contention by getting up before any of the closed-door votes in the Sistine Chapel and telling the 114 other cardinal electors that he didn't want the papacy. Numerous news reports have said that Ratzinger had a well-organized cluster of supporters able to round up votes quickly. It took only four ballots to elect him.

At Monday's audience, Benedict suggested he was dissuaded from dropping out by a fellow cardinal who slipped him a note reminding him of a biblical story about Jesus and Peter, the founder of the Roman Catholic Church. In the story, which Ratzinger used as the basis for his sermon at the funeral Mass for Pope John Paul II, Jesus tells Peter to follow him even to places he might not want to go. "Then I had no choice, and I said yes," he told the pilgrims.

The pope entered Paul VI Hall through a central corridor that let him mingle with the visitors. They yelled out his name and chanted, "Benedict, gift from God," which rhymes in German.

Benedict told them: "My roots are in Bavaria, and I'm still Bavarian even as bishop of Rome," one of the pope's titles. Benedict has yet to address his diocese directly, something his predecessor, John Paul, was quick to do after being elected in 1978.

Benedict also told a joke at the meeting. Apologizing for arriving late to the hall, he said: "Germans are used to punctuality, but I'm already Italianized."

During a separate meeting Monday with leaders and representatives of non-Catholic religions, Benedict pledged to "continue building bridges of friendship." For the first time, he singled out Muslims for a greeting.

It was his third outreach message since being elected pope last Tuesday. On Wednesday, in his first post-conclave homily, he said unity talks with other Christians and contact with non-Christian groups should continue. On Sunday, he sent a greeting to non-Catholic Christians, to Jews and to "non-believers."

On Monday, he promised Christian representatives he would take steps to unite Christendom. Then he addressed "dear friends from different religious traditions."

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