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On St. Peter's Square, pilgrims watch new pope with mix of joy and wariness
Updated: 2005-04-20 18:59

Pilgrims gathered on the cobblestones of St. Peter's Square on Wednesday to watch Pope Benedict XVI's first Mass with a mix of joy at the election of a new pontiff and wariness over his rejection of attempts to reform the Roman Catholic Church.

In contrast to the crowd of more than 100,000 who rushed to the square Tuesday evening to see the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger emerge from the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica, the pilgrims numbered in the dozens at the start of the Mass, and the hundreds by the end.

Many, like the new pope, were German.

``After the big surprise yesterday, I wanted to come back here to see that it's really true,'' said a beaming Daniel Stricker, 25, of Cologne, who wrapped himself in a German flag. ``I have to say, I'm a bit proud.''

The groups of tourists following guides into the Vatican museums often outnumbered the pilgrims on the square. Plastic chairs that people stood on to catch a glimpse of Benedict the previous night were scattered about. A truck swept trash left on the cobblestones even as Benedict offered his blessings from the Sistine Chapel.

Many of the pilgrims kneeled, and some held hands as they followed the Mass on giant screens.

``It's just so beautiful. The sun is shining. We have a new father,'' said Elizabeth Lev, a 38-year-old art history teacher from Boston who couldn't stop smiling. ``We Catholics aren't orphaned any more.''

But some of the pilgrims said they were wary of the policies Benedict might institute, saying the church needs to change to staunch an exodus of believers in Latin America and growing secularism in Europe.

``I think the church needs some new ideas and blood, mainly about contraception, homosexuality and abortion,'' said Jude Nathalie, a 23-year-old flight attendant from Quatrebornes, Mauritius.

Elisabeth Otzisk, a 33-year-old musician from Bottrop, Germany, said she was proud as a German but apprehensive as a Catholic.

``In Germany he's not so beloved, but we will see,'' she said.

She recalled the papacy of ``the good pope,'' John XXIII. He was seen as a conservative when he became pope in 1958 but modernized the church with the Second Vatican Council, which allowed Mass to be said in languages other than Latin and improved relations with other faiths.

``John XXIII changed, and maybe he will too,'' she said. ``Now he's a pope. Before he was not.''

A sole Polish flag fluttered in the square in tribute to the late Pope John Paul II. It was held by Bartholomew Wroblewski, a 30-year-old lawyer from Posnan, who said he missed John Paul but didn't see a German pope as a loss.

``Surely the pope was Polish and it was wonderful for us, but it was an exception,'' he said. ``We will remember our John Paul II, but we will love this pope too.''

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