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 » Challenges  |  Map  |  Gallery: Pope Benedict XVI  |  Special Report

350,000 in St. Peter's Square

From Tammy Oaks in Rome for CNN

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Pope Benedict XVI met with an audience of journalists Saturday

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VATICAN CITY (CNN) -- More than 350,000 religious faithful -- including up to 100,000 Germans -- and hundreds of state and religious leaders from around the world gathered in the square outside the Vatican to show their support for the new 78-year-old German pontiff, Benedict XVI.

Shortly before 10 a.m., Pope Benedict, dressed in a gold-embroidered chasuble once worn by John Paul II, led a procession to the tomb of St. Peter, the first pope, where the disciple of Christ is believed to be buried.

"I leave from where the apostle arrived," Benedict said before processing into the sunlit square where he kissed and blessed the altar before taking his place on the papal throne, which sat under the backdrop of a hanging tapestry, showing Christ pointing the way for Peter.

Senior Cardinal Deacon Jorge Arturo Medina Estevez, the Chilean who announced the election of Benedict to the world, performed the Ceremony of Investiture -- a rite steeped in tradition dating back to medieval times.

Estevez placed the pallium -- a special, narrow stole of white wool embroidered with crosses -- around Benedict's shoulders, setting off a fresh round of applause from the crowd. In a shift that dates to the first millennium, Benedict's pallium is longer than usual and is embroidered with five red silk crosses as opposed to six black ones.

The Fisherman's Ring was then presented to Benedict, who placed it on his right hand ring finger. The ring, which bears the image of St. Peter fishing from a boat and the name of the reigning pope, is used for sealing papal documents by pressing the emblem in red wax.

In another break with past inaugural traditions, a representational group of 12 people -- symbolic of the number of apostles of Christ -- approached Benedict before kneeling and kissing his hand.

Past inaugurations have included the cardinals kneeling publicly before the new pope to pledge obedience to him. Among the twelve were three cardinals, a bishop, a priest, a deacon, a married couple, a nun, a monk and two youths.

The Gospel was then sung followed by the pope giving his own blessing, known in Latin as "Urbi et Orbi" -- "To the city and the world."

In his homily, the new pontiff said he wished to reach out to Jews and "believers and non-believers alike," signaling he would continue in the work of his predecessor.

Benedict's public posture of reaching out to other religious faiths since his election on Tuesday has calmed fears that his stance, as outlined in the 2000 document "Dominus Iesus," on other churches and faiths being "deficient" would play a role in undermining world peace.

Benedict used his sermon, delivered in Italian, to pay homage to his friend and predecessor Pope John Paul II, saying he was "at home" among the saints in heaven.

His words, as expected, sent the message to the crowd gathered at St. Peter's that there would be no radical shifts in the core policies of John Paul.

He talked of the daunting task he faced as the 265th pontiff and reached out to the masses asking them to pray for him as he assumed "this enormous task."

Describing the significance of the pallium, he explained it is an old symbol of the pastor from the 4th Century made of sheep's wool and represents those who have lost their way. The role of the church is to take the sheep from the desert and help them find their way, he said.

Borrowing John Paul's now famous phrase from his inaugural homily in 1978, Benedict said: "Do not be afraid."

"He who lets Jesus Christ in his life loses nothing and has nothing to fear," he said. Those gathered showed their approval by sounding off a round of applause.

Moira Rosi, 31, told CNN: "I am happy he mentioned John Paul II and that he sent a powerful message to the world's leaders that they shouldn't fear the church.

"He seems to be very different than the serious man the media has described since his election. Perhaps he has changed to fit his new role."

Benedict also took John Paul's cue when he addressed the youth, saying "open the door to Jesus Christ and you will find true love." The crowd responded by shouting "Benedict! Benedict!"

Miranda Leone, 50, of Italy, said she was impressed with Pope Benedict because he reached out to the young and said he wants to mend the "broken net," which symbolizes to her the problems with humanity and the splintered religions of the world.

Angela Visco, 82, said she liked the new pontiff because he blessed everyone, including non-believers.

"I believe he will do the best for the church and for humanity, discarding any personal beliefs he may have brought to the position," Visco said.

Following Benedict's homily, five letters where read aloud by representatives from Germany, France, Arabia, China and Portugal, in their respective languages.

Wine, water and bread -- which were present during the last meal Christ had with his disciples -- were then offered to Benedict as part of the liturgy.

Flags from Germany, Bavaria, Mexico, Ukraine, Italy, France and The Netherlands, among others, could be seen waving in the assembly.

To the delight of the faithful gathered in the square, Pope Benedict went into the crowd in an updated version of the "pope mobile" -- a contrast to John Paul's papal walkabout after his 1978 inauguration.

World leaders in attendance were German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, German president Horst Koehler, Spain's King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates, Florida Governor Jeb Bush (President Bush's brother), Belgium's Prince Philippe, and his wife, Princess Mathilde, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, among others.

Giant TV screens were set up in the Vatican area to allow pilgrims who weren't able to get into St. Peter's Square to follow the ceremony. Streets around St. Peter's were cordoned off to traffic.

Monsignor Crispino Valenziano, an official with the Vatican's Office of Liturgical Celebrations, told journalists on Saturday many of the rites used in Sunday's ceremony would be seen for the first time since they were updated following the Second Vatican Council.

At the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI -- the last pope to wear a tiara -- signified the installation of pope's would be modernized as he formally renounced the practice of tiara wearing when he descended the steps of the papal throne in St. Peter's Basilica and laid his on the altar.

Although he did away with the tiara, the rite of the installation was not finalized when John Paul I and John Paul II were elected in 1978 and "substitute" measures were used, Valenziano said.

The new rituals were all approved by Benedict the day after he was elected pope.


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