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Vatican prepares to install pope

Up to half-million visitors expected at Mass

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Rome (Italy)
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Joseph Ratzinger

VATICAN CITY (CNN) -- Pope Benedict XVI, formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, will officially take the helm of the Roman Catholic Church on Sunday before a crowd filled with dignitaries, members of his flock and a worldwide television audience of millions.

The inaugural Mass is expected to draw political and religious leaders from all parts of the globe, as well as hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who plan to pack the square outside the Vatican and watch the proceedings on giant screens.

Italian police said as many as 500,000 people were expected, many of them from the pope's homeland of Germany.

The plan to broadcast the ceremony all over the world, on television, online and on the radio, befits a man who vowed Saturday to emulate his predecessor's cooperation with media.

"It is my desire to continue this fruitful work which was started by Pope John Paul the Second," Benedict told an audience of members of the media, adding he would "confront this new epoch-making era of mass communications and use it to the benefit of the gospel."

Like other proceedings at the Vatican in recent days, including John Paul's funeral, the Mass will see heavy security.

Italian police said up to 7,000 security personnel will participate, including those protecting VIP delegations.

The Italian civil aviation authorities said there will be a no-fly zone over Rome, covering a 5-mile radius around the Vatican, between 8 a.m. (2 a.m. ET) and 4 p.m. (10 a.m. ET). Rome's Ciampino airport will be closed to commercial traffic until noon Sunday.

Emergency services on hand will include 100 doctors, 100 nurses, 50 medical first-response teams, 80 ambulances and eight first-aid tents.

Dignitaries planning to attend the solemn, ornate ceremony include heads of state, royalty and leaders of other religions.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, and Spain's King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia are on the guest list. Lebanese President Emile Lahoud is expected as well, as are numerous Latin American leaders.

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, President Bush's brother, heads the U.S. delegation, which includes Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele; Knights of Columbus CEO Carl A. Anderson; Helen Alvary, an associate professor of law at Catholic University of America; and Frank Hanley, president emeritus of the International Union of Operating Engineers.

For the first time "at least since the Reformation," the archbishop of Canterbury will attend such an event, the Church of England's Web site said. Rowan Williams will also lead "representatives from the Anglican delegation in Rome" in a brief audience with the pope Monday.

Benedict invited Rome's chief rabbi, Riccardo Segni, but he could not attend because Sunday is the first day of Passover.

Since Tuesday, when he was elected pope, Benedict has made clear he would continue to reach out to leaders of other faiths. His predecessor made great strides in building relations with leaders of other religions.

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