Pontiff says he will continue dialogue, thanks journalists

He uses four languages in first public audience

April 24, 2005|By Tracy Wilkinson | Tracy Wilkinson,LOS ANGELES TIMES

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI told hundreds of journalists yesterday that he intended to continue his predecessor's "fruitful dialogue" with the media and reminded them of their "ethical responsibility" to find the truth.

The pope used four languages to thank journalists for transmitting to the world the "historically important" news and pictures of his election, and the death and funeral of the man he replaced, Pope John Paul II.

"I know how hard you have worked, far away from your homes and families, for long hours and in sometimes difficult conditions," he said. "In my own name, and especially on behalf of Catholics living far from Rome, who were able to participate in these stirring moments for our faith as they were taking place, I thank you for all you have done."

Speaking in German, the Bavarian-born prelate told journalists they had an "ethical responsibility ... especially regarding the sincere search for the truth and the defense of the centrality and dignity of the person.

"Only in these conditions can the media respond to God's design."

After the German portion of his remarks, he joked that he had to return to Italian because, "We are in Rome." He also spoke in English and French, but not in Spanish.

It was the first audience with the public, in this case journalists, since Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope Tuesday, replacing Pope John Paul, who died April 2 at age 84. After 24 years as head of the church's office on doctrinal purity, Ratzinger has a reputation as an austere disciplinarian who blocked numerous church reforms. He and aides have taken pains since his election to pro-ject a softer image.

About 2,000 journalists from across the world filled seats in the modern Paul VI auditorium at the Vatican on the southern side of St. Peter's Basilica. Some of the journalists cheered "Viva il papa" when Pope Benedict, clad in papal white, strode onto the stage, and some participated in a prayer benediction that the pope led at the end of his brief appearance.

Pope Benedict pledged to continue what he called the same "open and sincere dialogue" with the news media that his predecessor had enjoyed. Although widely recognized as a brilliant theologian, he appears to lack Pope John Paul's charisma.

Yesterday, Pope Benedict took no questions, waved stiffly, almost mechanically, at those gathered and limited his appearance to about 19 minutes. In 1978, when Pope John Paul held the same audience with journalists, he waded into the crowd of reporters and spent 40 minutes exchanging comments and quips with them.

Benedict did smile frequently at his audience, especially during the long ovation when he took the stage. There, he sat on a simple throne and read prepared remarks, looking professorial as he peered from behind wire-rim glasses that were slightly crooked on his face.

After his remarks, Benedict greeted several priests and bishops who work in the Vatican's office of Social Communication and kneeled before him.

Monsignor Emilio Berlie Belaunzaran, the archbishop of Yucatan, was among the participants. He described Benedict as a "firm but tender" prelate who would grow into the job.

"Undoubtedly it takes a little time," Berlie said. "He is a very methodical, very systematic person. His style will reflect that."

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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