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Huge Crowds Watch As New Pope Celebrates Inaugural Mass

Pope Benedict XVI (file photo) Prague, 24 April 2005 (RFE/RL) - One week ago he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger from Germany, but as he celebrated his inaugural mass today he was Pope Benedict XVI, the 265th pope and spiritual leader of more than 1 billion Catholics.

Among the many banners visible on St. Peter's Square was one prepared by Italian children that read "Lieber Papst, wir Kinder lieben Dich," (Dear Pope, we children love you). Also visible were a number of German and Bavarian flags.

One of the pilgrims present, Patrick Maloni from Germany, expressed the feelings of many from his country on this day.

"We are very happy that a Pope from Germany was elected, and has his inauguration celebration here today. He is from near Regensburg and had worked there for a while, and that's why we are also proud that a Bavarian became the new Pope, after nearly 500 years and that's why we came here," Maloni said.

The ceremony started with a procession of the new Pope and cardinals to the area of the tomb of St. Peter - the first pope - under St. Peter's Basilica. At the high point of the open-air mass Benedict received his papal Fisherman's Ring, traditionally used to make lead seals for apostolic letters. The Pope also was wrapped in the Petrine Pallium, a narrow shawl of white wool embroidered with five silk crosses with red color symbolizing the blood of Christ.

Among the dignitaries attending the inaugural mass were German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and German President Horst Koehler. Spain's King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, Britain's Prince Philip, Prince Albert of Monaco and Florida Governor Jeb Bush, the brother of the U.S. president, were also at the ceremony.

Among the religious dignitaries attending was Rowan Williams, the spiritual leader of the Anglican Church, and Metropolitan Chrisostomos, representing Bartholomew I, the spiritual head of the world's Christian Orthodox community and Metropolitan Kirill, a senior representative of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Security was tight for the ceremony. Fast boats patrolled the Tiber River. A no-fly zone was in effect for an eight-kilometer area around the Vatican. Italian forces set up anti-missile systems and warplanes and NATO surveillance aircraft flew overhead.

The Pope continued the tradition of his predecessor of appealing to a wide audience by reading the scriptures English and Spanish and reciting prayers in French, German, Chinese, Portuguese, Arabic, Greek, and Latin.