The election of Pope Benedict XVI was celebrated in Toledo last night as 250 people attended - for the first time in more than 26 years - a Mass Upon the Election of a Pope.
Bishop Leonard Blair presided at the service in Rosary Cathedral, lauding the new Pontiff as a man who is well prepared for the daunting task at hand because he has God's anointing.
In his 10-minute homily, Bishop Blair said the death of beloved Pope John Paul II on April 2, followed by Tuesday's election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as his successor, reaffirmed "in a thrilling way" the Easter faith, with death followed by new life.
"Christ does not leave his flock untended for long," Bishop Blair said.
He also stressed the divine calling of the papacy and referred several times to the spiritual help necessary for a pope to guide the world's 1.1 billion Catholics, including the 307,000 members of the Toledo diocese.
The bishop quoted Pope Benedict XVI's first homily, given yesterday at the Vatican, in which the Pontiff mentioned his earthly limitations and his reliance on heavenly powers.
In his spirit, Pope Benedict said, he feels "a sense of inadequacy and of human anxiety." But he also expressed his "profound gratitude for a gift of the divine mercy prevails in my heart despite everything."
Bishop Blair noted Benedict XVI's comments about feeling John Paul II's presence helping him face the responsibilities of his new role.
"●'I seem to feel his strong hand gripping mine,'●" Bishop Blair said, quoting Pope Benedict. "●'I seem to see his smiling eyes and to hear his words, addressed at this moment particularly to me, "Be not afraid."●'●"
Bishop Blair said Jesus Christ told the 265th pope, just as he told Saint Peter, that "upon this rock I will build my church." The rock, he said, was not Peter's nor Benedict XVI's abilities, but their faith.
Among those attending the service was Yehia "John" Shousher, a member of the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo. He said he had great respect for John Paul II and hopes to see the late Pontiff's legacy of reaching out to other faiths continue with Pope Benedict XVI.
"I feel Pope John Paul dedicated his life to God, and he was a man of peace. He always preached God's word," Mr. Shousher said.
Paul Pangalos, 14, was one of eight teenagers from St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Sylvania who came to Rosary Cathedral for the Mass.
"I hope the new Pope is going to have ideas for reaching young people," the teenager said. "But it will be hard for him to follow in Pope John Paul's footsteps because he was so great."
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