Pope Benedict XVI pledged Wednesday to work to unify all Christians, reach out to other religions and continue implementing the Second Vatican Council as he outlined his goals and made clear his pontificate would follow closely the trajectory of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II.
Benedict, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, listed top priorities of his pontificate in a message read in Latin to cardinals gathered in the Sistine Chapel for the first Mass celebrated by the 265th leader of the Roman Catholic Church.
He said his "primary task" would be to work without fail to reunify all Christians and that sentiment alone was not enough. "Concrete acts that enter souls and move consciences are needed," he said.
He said he wanted to continue "an open and sincere dialogue" with other religions and would do everything in his power to improve the ecumenical cause.
The message was clearly designed to show that Benedict was intent on following many of the groundbreaking paths charted by Pope John Paul II, who had made reaching out to other religions and trying to heal the 1,000-year-old schism in Christianity a hallmark of his pontificate.
Benedict referred to John Paul several times in his message, including a reference to the late pope's final will, where John Paul said he hoped new generations would draw on the work of the Second Vatican Council, the 1962-65 meeting that modernized the church.
"I too ... want to affirm with decisive willingness to follow in the commitment of carrying out the Second Vatican Council, in the wake of my predecessors and in faithful continuity with the 2,000-year-old tradition of the church," he said.
NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press Writer