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Benedict XVI calls for unification of Christians

Pontiff says his first Mass in Sistine Chapel

At the Sistine Chapel on Wednesday, Pope Benedict XVI celebrates his first Mass as pontiff.
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Pope Benedict XVI

VATICAN CITY (CNN) -- Pope Benedict XVI outlined goals for his papacy Wednesday, including the unification of all Christians, continuing the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and reaching out to people of other faiths.

"This successor of Peter knows he has been entrusted with the task of confirming his brothers ... with the intention of working to reconstitute the full and visible unity of all the followers of Christ," Benedict told cardinals gathered in the Sistine Chapel for his first Mass as pontiff.

Still adjusting to his new role as head of the Roman Catholic Church, the pope acknowledged that he was experiencing feelings of "inadequacy and an inner disquiet," but professed a "profound gratitude toward God."

Benedict often invoked his predecessor during his message, promising to continue John Paul II's legacy and to use the Second Vatican Council as the cornerstone for spreading the Gospel to the world.

The thrust of the council in 1965 was to make the Catholic Church more accessible to the masses.

"The new pope knows that his task is to make the light of Christ shine before men and women of world -- not his own light, but that of Christ," Benedict said.

"With this full knowledge, I would like to greet all those, including those who follow other religions ... to reassure them that the church wants to continue with its open ... sincere dialogue looking for the true good of man and of society." (Excerpts)

Wednesday's traditional Latin Mass was held less than 24 hours after 115 cardinals from 52 countries elected Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany the 265th pope.

Benedict's election was seen by some observers as a sign that cardinals wished to maintain John Paul II's conservative course, but at the same time, may have wanted a shorter papacy than John Paul II's 26 years.

The new pope turned 78 on Saturday.

He had been serving as their dean and was one of the most powerful men in the Vatican under John Paul II -- acting as his chief theological adviser for 20 years. (Profile)

Tens of thousands cheered Benedict when he appeared Tuesday evening on a Vatican balcony. Later he received congratulations from political and religious leaders around the world.

President Bush called Benedict "a man of great wisdom and knowledge."

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said of his nation's native son: "It is a great honor for the whole country." (World leaders react | Gallery)

German Cardinal Walter Kasper, who clashed with the conservative Ratzinger through the years, praised his countryman's selection as the sixth German pope and the first since the 11th century. (Catholics react)

"I think he will be a pope of conciliation and peace," Kasper said after taking part in the conclave. (CNN Access)

Not everyone was enthralled with the selection.

It was "an enormous disappointment for all those who hoped for a reformist and pastoral pope," said Hans Kung, Catholic theologian, author and professor at Germany's University of Tubingen.

"But we must wait and see, for experience shows that the papacy in the Catholic Church today is such a challenge that it can change anyone," Kung said.

Nearly three-quarters of American Catholics say they are more likely to follow their own conscience on "difficult moral questions," rather than the teachings of the new pope, according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll conducted after the pontiff's election. (Full story)

Warning against 'relativism'

There had been a great deal of speculation about who would be chosen to succeed John Paul II, who died April 2 at age 84.

John Paul was widely credited with extending the reach of the papacy. He spoke more than a dozen languages and set an unprecedented pattern of pastoral travel, drawing huge crowds all over the world.

He was also strictly traditional on issues of sexuality and the role of women in the church, which won him support among some Catholics but alienated others.

Similar disagreement exists over the new pontiff's stances on issues such as birth control, stem cell research and the ordination of female priests.

Ratzinger, however, was critical of progressive Catholicism.

In a homily delivered at a Mass before the cardinals began the conclave Monday, he warned against "a dictatorship of relativism, which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires."

The new pope served as archbishop of Munich, Germany, and since 1981 led the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, the office that oversees "the doctrine on the faith and morals throughout the Catholic world," according to the Vatican.

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