ROME, April 20 - In his first Mass as pope, Benedict XVI reached out to the church today, setting out some of the themes of his papacy in conciliatory language.
He specified some of the top priorities of his papacy: the promotion of the unity of Christians and a commitment to ecumenism, the continued dialogue with other religions and the fulfillment of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council...
He told the gold-robed cardinals in attendance that he would assume as his primary task the "full and visible unity of all the followers of Christ."
More than a task, he said, it was a duty where "concrete gestures" were required and not vague motions of good sentiment.
For more than two decades at the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger was Catholicism's faithful doctrinal watchdog, and in a homily on Monday he said that Christians were being tossed about by the waves of Marxism, collectivism, libertinism and atheism.
And he was highly critical of the creation of new "sects," a term often used by church leaders to refer to Christian evangelical movements, drawing Christians into what he said was "error."
But in his first homily as pontiff he took a much softer stance, saying he was disposed "to do what was in his power to promote the fundamental cause of ecumenism."
And in a gesture perhaps intended to allay the fears of those critics who saw his election as shutting the door on the inter-religious dialogue started by his predecessor, Pope Benedict appealed to "those who follow other religions," reassuring them that the church wanted to continue to construct "an open and sincere dialogue" with them.
Well, if anything, this guy has no more a special place at his table for Evangelicals than he does Buddhists or Zoroastrians.