VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI (search) said Monday that he had prayed to God during the conclave not to be elected pope but that "evidently this time He didn't listen to me."
For the first time since his election, Benedict shed light on his feelings inside the conclave during an audience with German pilgrims, who gave a hero's welcome to the first German pope in centuries.
Speaking in his native German, Benedict told the audience that at one point during the conclave, when it became clear he was garnering many votes, a fellow cardinal slipped him a note of paper reminding him what he had preached before the conclave about Christ calling Peter to follow him even where he didn't want to go.
Benedict, 78, said he had hoped to spend his last years living quietly and peacefully.
"At a certain point, I prayed to God, 'Please don't do this to me,'" he told the audience, saying he viewed the swelling votes in his favor as a "guillotine." He recalled saying to God in his prayers: "You have younger, better, more enthusiastic and energetic candidates."
"Evidently, this time He didn't listen to me," Benedict said.
The former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (search) was elected pope April 19 after four rounds of balloting in 24 hours, one of the fastest elections in a century. He had gone in as a leading candidate, but at 78 he was considered old to be named pope.
Benedict was interrupted several times by applause and cheering during the audience, and he seemed to enjoy the welcome from his fellow countrymen, smiling and chuckling occasionally. When he first arrived in the audience hall, he received a hero's welcome, shaking the pilgrims' hands and blessing a child who was handed to him.
"Benedict sent from God!" the crowds chanted. In German, the chant rhymes: "Benedikt Gott Geschickt."
Pilgrims toted Bavarian flags and a banner for the church's World Youth Day (search), which is being celebrated in August in Cologne, Germany. Benedict has said he plans to attend, following a tradition beloved by his predecessor Pope John Paul II who made reaching out to young Catholics a hallmark of his pontificate.
In the crowd was Benedict's brother, Georg Ratzinger, who is also a priest and traveled to Rome for his younger brother's inauguration.
Benedict apologized to the crowds for having arrived late, explaining that a meeting with religious leaders who had attended his inauguration Mass went over time.
"The Germans are used to punctuality," he joked. "I'm already very Italian."