Marking the election of Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony celebrated his first Mass at the downtown Cathedral in honor of the new pontiff Tuesday and offered assurances that the German-born leader would be a pope for the whole church, not just Europe.
The Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels drew more than 3,000 from throughout Southern California who filled the pews and lined the walls of the vast church to pray for the 264th successor of Peter, the Apostle of Jesus.
"We have the strong hand of Peter in the person of Pope Benedict" at the helm of the church, Mahony told the congregation. Mahony prayed that Benedict would be given "a spirit of courage and right judgment, a spirit of knowledge and love."
In another first, Mahony, who for 26 years had prayed for "John Paul our pope" during the Eucharist, now prayed for "Benedict our pope." A large photograph of the new pontiff rested on an easel on the marble steps leading to the altar.
The liturgy echoed those held at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome since John Paul II's death on April 2. As more than 50 robed priests and deacons, six bishops and Mahony followed a cross bearer into the cathedral, the congregation sang the Litany of the Saints, a liturgical prayer petitioning the saints by name to pray for the church.
It was the same litany, Mahony later told the congregation, that had been sung three times in as many weeks at St. Peter's, once at the funeral Mass for John Paul, another time as cardinals entered the Sistine Chapel to elect a new pope, and at Sunday's Mass installing Benedict as supreme pontiff of the 1.1-billion-member church.
In a news conference before the Mass, Mahony said Benedict, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, would not ignore Africa, South America or Asia, despite speculation that he would concentrate on reviving the church in Europe, where its numbers are shrinking and Mass attendance is plummeting.
"He is very, very well informed on what is going on in the whole world. He does not see himself at all as the German pope or the European pope. He sees himself as the pope for the universal church," Mahony said. He predicted that Benedict would soon make a trip to Latin America to attend a synod of bishops.
But Mahony said he doubted that Benedict would visit Los Angeles any time soon. Mahony said Los Angeles may find itself lower in priority because John Paul spent two days here in 1987.