Pope stresses Europe's Christian roots in first audience

Pope Benedict XVI stressed Europe's "inalienable" Christian roots in the first general audience of his pontificate, which he said marked a return to normality after the tumultuous events of the past month.

Speaking to a joyous crowd of 15,000 pilgrims, AFP reports that the new pope revealed he had chosen the name Benedict to follow the ideals of Benedict XV "a courageous and authentic prophet of peace" who led the Catholic Church during the dark years of World War I.

He said he also chose the name because Saint Benedict, founder of the Benedictine order, is one of the patron saints of Europe.

"St Benedict is therefore much venerated in Germany and in particular, in Bavaria, my native land; constituting a fundamental point of reference for the unity of Europe, and a strong call to the inalienable Christian roots of its culture and civilisation."

The late John Paul II had controversially campaigned for specific mention of Europe's Christian roots to be made in the pre-amble of the European Union's new constitution.

Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, also publicly opposed the entrance of Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country, in the union.

"After the pious death of my venerated predecessor John Paul II, today start anew the traditional general Wednesday audiences," said the pontiff, sitting in front of the basilica. "We return to normality."

Pope stresses Europe's Christian roots in first audience (Agence France-Presse/Yahoo 27/4/05)

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28 Apr 2005