Pope Benedict XVI made a one-day pilgrimage Sunday to northern Italy to pay tribute to Paul VI, his predecessor who made him a cardinal.

Thousands held umbrellas or pulled jackets tightly about them as a chilly rain fell during Benedict's Mass in Paul VI Square outside the cathedral in Brescia, 55 miles east of Milan.

A canopy sheltered Benedict from the downpour as he hailed Paul VI's achievements as a reforming pope.

In 1977, a year before Pope Paul VI died, he elevated German prelate Joseph Ratzinger, then 50 — relatively young to become a "prince of the church" — to the rank of cardinal. Ratzinger took the name Benedict XVI when he was elected pontiff in 2005.

Later Sunday, Benedict planned to visit the village of Concesio, Paul's birthplace.

Paul VI was elected pope in 1963, taking over from John XXIII who began the Second Vatican Council, a landmark initiative to modernize the policies and practices of the Roman Catholic Church. Paul led the council to its completion, which Benedict attended as an up-and-coming theologian.

In his homily, Benedict quoted extensively from Paul VI's 1968 speech in which he noted the Catholic faithful's expectations that the pope should lead with "impressive, energetic and decisive interventions."

"Even the pope needs to be helped with prayer," Benedict quoted Paul as saying.