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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Pope Promises to Continue Dialogue

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI moved swiftly Wednesday to allay fears that his papacy would be rigidly inward-looking, saying he wanted dialogue with other faiths and cultures.

Speaking at his first public Mass, German Joseph Ratzinger, 78, said he felt "inadequacy and human turmoil" at his election, a choice that was welcomed by conservatives but caused consternation among church reformers.

"I welcome everybody with simplicity and love to assure them that the church wants to continue in open and sincere dialogue with them, in search of true good of man and society," he said at the Mass with the red-hatted cardinals who elected him.

Sitting under Michelangelo's fresco of the Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel where he was elected, and dressed in white and gold vestments, the pontiff said he felt his predecessor was guiding him and holding his hand.

The election in one of the swiftest conclaves for a century was widely seen as reflecting the cardinals' determination to maintain continuity with Pope John Paul II's stern rule. Although Ratzinger has in the past harshly dismissed other denominations as deficient, he said Wednesday that theological dialogue was necessary and committed himself to contacts with other Christian churches.

His first official speech as pope, delivered in Latin, appeared a commitment to continue moves launched by his predecessors to engage in dialogue with all religions and cultures as already urged by Muslim and Jewish leaders.

"I will spare no effort and commitment to continue the promising dialogue with other civilizations that was started by my venerable predecessors," he said.

But newspapers in Turkey expressed concern that the new pope's past opposition to Ankara joining the European Union on the grounds that it is a Muslim nation could raise fresh obstacles to its membership.

The choice of one of John Paul's closest aides was greeted by a shower of congratulations from world and religious leaders and delight from conservatives.

But there was deep disappointment among those who hoped for reform in the Catholic Church.

South African Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu called Benedict a "rigid conservative" out of step with the times.

"We would have hoped for someone more open to the more recent developments in the world, the whole question of the ministry of women and a more reasonable position with regard to condoms and HIV/AIDS," Tutu said.

The strict defender of Catholic orthodoxy for 23 years, Ratzinger made clear in recent speeches that he would brook no dissent and would block debate on issues such as women priests, priestly celibacy, abortion and homosexuality.

Friends and colleagues said the world had yet to see the warmer side of a man who has been dubbed in the Italian press as the "panzer cardinal" and "God's Rottweiler."

"You have to be slow to make a judgment," said Cardinal Edward Egan of New York after the conclave. "This is a really wonderful, calm, thoughtful human being."