VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI confirmed Cardinal Angelo Sodano (search) in the Vatican's No. 2 post Thursday and kept all other top officials, avoiding any immediate shakeup in the late John Paul II's administration.
It was a sign that the new pope, a doctrinal hard-liner, wants to show continuity with the popular John Paul.
Sodano, the Vatican's secretary of state, is 77, already two years past the normal retirement age for Vatican officials. The new pope is 78.
One appointment Benedict will have to make is his successor as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (search), the Vatican's guardian of orthodoxy.
The Vatican also said the pope confirmed the Holy See's foreign minister, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo of Italy, as well as the undersecretary of state, Archbishop Leonardo Sandri of Argentina, who had become John Paul's official voice when the late pontiff could no longer speak.
The confirmation of Sodano came a day after Benedict gave his first Mass as pope, pledging to keep reaching out to other religions and leaving no doubt that he senses the large shadow of his predecessor.
"I seem to feel his strong hand holding mine, I feel I can see his smiling eyes and hear his words, at this moment particularly directed at me: 'Be not afraid,"' said Benedict, who until Tuesday was simply Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (search).
While signaling that he wants to tread in John Paul's ideological footsteps, the pope is a contrast in style to his predecessor, who was 20 years younger when he became pontiff and kept up a grueling global travel schedule even as his health ebbed.
John Paul II, who died April 2, acted, played soccer, and went canoeing in mountain streams as a young man in Poland. Benedict is mostly an indoor man, though he is a big walker because of his youth in the Bavarian Alps. He finds relaxation in classical music and likes to play the piano, not take to the stage.
But the Vatican also showed that Benedict intends to follow in the footsteps of John Paul's multimedia ministry. It modified its Web site so that users who click on an icon on the home page automatically activate an e-mail composer with Benedict's address. In English, the address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Benedict took a cue from John Paul when he pledged Wednesday to work for unity among Christians and to seek "an open and sincere dialogue" with other faiths.
He also stressed he would draw on the work of the Second Vatican Council (search), the 1962-65 meeting that modernized the church, an issue important to liberals who are wary of Benedict from his time as the powerful enforcer of church doctrine.
Benedict will be fighting that reputation close to home as he tackles one of the biggest challenges: a Europe of empty churches and growing secularism.
And as the world's 1.1 billion Catholics got first hints of where the papacy is headed, followers of other religions weighed the future of interfaith relations. By and large, reactions were hopeful and expectant — an indication of the new standards in reaching out that John Paul set during his 26-year papacy.
"I think he has been very open, so I have no worries about the ecumenical route," said British Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor (search). "It will continue. No doubt at all."
But the new pope has been one of the most forceful Vatican voices for Catholic missionary work and other forms of evangelization. He was the intellectual force behind the 2000 document "Dominus Iesus," which outlined the Catholic Church as an exclusive road to salvation and angered Protestants, Jews, Muslims and other non-Christians.
In Israel, admiration for John Paul's tireless efforts to promote Jewish-Catholic reconciliation mixed with unease about Benedict's time in the Hitler Youth as a teenager.
Benedict has written openly about his service, which was compulsory under the Nazi regime. He also was drafted into a German anti-aircraft unit during World War II, though he says he never fired a shot.
John Paul won many Israeli hearts during a trip to the Holy Land in 2000 by apologizing for Roman Catholic wrongdoing over the centuries. He also was praised for promoting interfaith dialogue, establishing diplomatic relations with Israel and aiding Polish Jews during the Nazi era.
"Israel can certainly coexist with him," Oded Ben-Hor, Israel's ambassador to the Vatican, said of the new pope. "But the real test will come over the course of time."
Benedict inherits sometimes testy relations with the Russian Orthodox Church (search), which has accused Catholics of poaching Orthodox believers. John Paul, the first Slavic pope, saw a visit to Russia as a way to promote greater Christian unity a millennium after the east-west schism, but he never was able to arrange the trip.
"We very much hope that under the new pope those problems will be solved," said Igor Vyzhanov, an Orthodox church spokesman.
Benedict's election was welcomed across the Islamic world, where many people hope he will promote harmony between the two religions and possibly Middle East peace.
The new pope won praise from Muslims by criticizing Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi for comments in 2001 that Western civilization is superior to Islam.
"One cannot speak of the superiority of one culture over another, because history has shown that a society can change from one age to another," he said at the time.
But Benedict has objected mostly Muslim Turkey's bid to join the European Union, viewing it out of line with the continent's Christian traditions.
John Paul was the first pope to visit a mosque, urged religious tolerance, spoke out against the U.S.-led war in Iraq and called for a peaceful end to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Given John Paul's tireless traveling to promote both Catholicism and interfaith dialogue, Benedict's impact will depend on his health, vigor and the ability of a relatively shy man to captivate crowds.
He himself predicted a "short reign" in comments to cardinals just after his election, and his brother worried about the stresses of the job on a man Benedict's age.
While there are no indications that Benedict suffers from any serious or chronic medical problems, he has had ailments — including a 1991 hemorrhagic stroke — that raise questions about how long his pontificate will last.
The Vatican refused to comment on Benedict's health, citing his privacy. The Vatican never officially confirmed that John Paul suffered from Parkinson's disease until after he died.
The pope's immediate schedule includes a meeting with cardinals Friday, a news conference Saturday and his inauguration service Sunday. On Monday, he will visit the tomb of St. Paul at Basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls, the Vatican said.