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Theological Notebook: Stories from the Big Day, Pt. 3

On the reception of Benedict XVI by the world....


Catholics, World Leaders Welcome New Pope


Apr 19, 7:35 PM (ET)

By BETH GARDINER

LONDON (AP) - From Notre Dame in Paris to the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City, cathedral bells tolled and prayers were offered Tuesday to celebrate the election of Pope Benedict XVI.

Roman Catholics and political and religious leaders around the world embraced the staunchly conservative Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as successor to the hugely popular Pope John Paul II. Many watched live television broadcasts of the white smoke that puffed from a Vatican chimney to tell the world a new pontiff had been chosen.

But while some praised Ratzinger as a fitting choice to consolidate and build on John Paul's work, others saw him as too hard-line to lead the church in the 21st century.

Jewish and Muslim leaders said they were hopeful that Ratzinger, who chose the name Benedict XVI, would continue his predecessor's effort to reach out to those from other faiths.

At St. Michael Seminary in Traunstein, Germany, which Ratzinger attended as a child, a roomful of boys jumped up and cheered at the news.

"It's fantastic that it's Cardinal Ratzinger," said Lorenz Gradl, 16, who was confirmed by Ratzinger in 2003.

"It's a very good choice," agreed Alois Kansky, priest at the St. Anthony church in downtown Prague, Czech Republic, as he rang the bells to honor the new pontiff.

President Bush said the new pope was a "man of great wisdom and knowledge ... a man who serves the Lord."

He said he'd been touched by the homily Ratzinger gave at John Paul's funeral.

But some worried about the new pope's deep conservatism, saying he was the wrong choice to lead the church as it grapples with a host of modern problems. Divisions between the wealthy north and the poor south, priest sex-abuse scandals, a chronic shortage of clergy in Western nations and the stream of Catholics leaving the church are among the issues confronting Benedict XVI.

"The election signalizes continuity," said Hans Peter Hurkal, chairman of the Austrian branch of We are the Church, a group that promotes reform within the church.

"But if Pope Benedict XVI refuses to reform, the church's descent will go faster," he said. "There is a clear demand for reforms."

"I would have liked a more liberal man," said Felix Bared, 70, a businessman in San Juan, Puerto Rico, who said he attends Mass every week. "You have to change with the times. He is probably a very holy man but he is too attached to the doctrine. I would have liked a pope from the Third World."

But Luz Maria Casillas, 59, a retired teacher visiting Mexico City's main cathedral, was pleased. "Since I'm conservative, I like him a lot," she said.

She noted that Ratzinger was close to John Paul, but wasn't sure whether he would be as popular. "It's difficult. Here in Mexico he (John Paul) was completely adored," she said.

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said he hoped ties between his country and the Vatican would continue to warm, and alluded to Ratzinger's recollection that he was forced to join the Nazi youth movement.

"We are sure that considering the background of this new pope he, like his predecessor, will be a strong voice against anti-Semitism in all its forms," Shalom said.

Iqbal Sacranie, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, also offered good wishes, saying Benedict XVI "can rest assured about the Muslim world's fullest support on social, moral and political issues common between us."

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, praised Ratzinger as "a theologian of great stature" and wished him "every blessing" in his work.

The leader of Ireland's 4 million Roman Catholics, Archbishop Sean Brady, urged the faithful to pray for their new leader.

"The election of our new pope is not only a source of great joy and hope for Catholics throughout the world, it is also an important event for the whole human family," he said.

In Britain, Prime Minister Tony Blair said he looked forward to working with the new pope on aiding Africa and encouraging economic development. Buckingham Palace said Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip sent their good wishes to Rome.

Also among those sending congratulations was Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who clashed with John Paul by pushing to legalize gay marriage and ease laws on abortion and divorce.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan wished the pope "every strength and courage as he takes on his formidable responsibilities."



Leaders Hail New Pope, Liberal Catholics Dismayed


Apr 19, 6:18 PM (ET)

By Steve Pagani

LONDON (Reuters) - World leaders congratulated former German cardinal Joseph Ratzinger on his election as Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday, describing him as a man blessed with the same wisdom and compassion as Pope John Paul II.

Many among the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics welcomed Ratzinger as representing continuity after serving as one of the late Pope's closest aides and guardian of Church doctrine for nearly a quarter of a century.

There was disappointment among those, however, who had hoped a new pope might relax the Church's views on issues such as contraception. Liberal U.S. Catholics expressed dismay at the choice of an arch-conservative as pope.

Others voiced concern over whether Ratzinger was committed to ecumenism.

"That a fellow countryman has become pope fills us in Germany with special joy and also with a little pride," German President Horst Koehler said. Ratzinger is the first German pope for some 1,000 years.

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder called him a worthy successor to John Paul II. "In Pope Benedict XVI, a pope has been chosen who knows the world Church like no one else," Schroeder said.

Besides being leader of the Catholic Church, the Pope is also head of state of the Holy See and his election was met with congratulations from around the world.

President Bush called Ratzinger "a man of great wisdom and knowledge. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Ratzinger would bring a wealth of experience to his papacy.

President Jacques Chirac sent his sincerest wishes, adding that France would pursue its dialogue with the Vatican to promote peace and mutual respect among the world's religions.

Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said Ratzinger was a good choice and would carry on John Paul II's fight for peace.

"He has been portrayed too often as a bogeyman and as a 'panzer cardinal' by his opponents," Balkenende said. "It is very clear the cardinals chose a safe transition ... a man with whom they can think: 'we can go home safely, the shop in Rome is in good hands'."

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said: I'm confident that Pope Benedict XVI is blessed with the same compassion and vision that made Pope John Paul II one of the world's most revered and respected voices."

President Mahmoud Abbas was quoted by aide Nabil Abu Rdainah as saying he hoped the new pope would continue the Vatican's support for a just peace in the Holy Land.

CONTROVERSIAL

As conservative arch-theologian during the last papacy, Ratzinger became a controversial figure, attracting his critics.

U.S. liberal Catholics doubted he could a heal a Church racked by disillusionment and tarnished by a sex abuse scandal among the clergy.

"Ratzinger is a polarising figure to many, who seems to prefer combativeness to compromise and compassion," Mary Grant of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said.

In 2000, he branded other Christian churches as deficient and then lambasted Lutherans as "absurd" when they complained.

Bernd Goehring, director of German ecumenical group Kirche von Unten, said the election was a catastrophe.

"We can expect no reform from him in the coming years ... I think that even more people will turn their back on the church."

Bishop Wolfgang Huber, chairman of the Protestant Church in Germany, said it was good for ecumenism to have a top theologian as pope, but recalled he had in recent years "treated ecumenicals with a considerable degree of exclusion and prejudice."

The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, leader of the world's 70 million Anglicans, praised the new pope, however, as a theologian of "great stature" and said he looked forward to working with him.

Jewish leaders said they believed Ratzinger would build on the strides made by John Paul II in helping repair the centuries of mistrust between the two monotheistic faiths.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said Ratzinger grew up in an anti-Nazi family but was forced to join the Hitler Youth Movement.

"The new Pope, like his predecessor, was deeply influenced by the events of World War II," Hier said, adding that he was confident Pope Benedict XVI would continue to reach out to other religions such as Judaism.

"Cardinal Ratzinger already has shown a profound commitment to advancing Catholic-Jewish relations," said Rabbi David Rosen, the American Jewish Committee's international director of interreligious affairs.

In Latin America, which had hoped one of their own would be elected pontiff this time, the choice may be seen as divisive.

Ratzinger had disciplined Latin American priests who backed Marxist-influenced "liberation theology" to fight against social injustice and military regimes in the 1970s and 1980s.#

"This is a triumph for the dogmatic, capitalist right," said Argentine theologian Ruben Dri, a professor at the University of Buenos Aires.

But Brazilian archbishop Raymundo Damasceno Assis praised Ratzinger as a person who was aware of Brazil's social problems.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil, the world's biggest Roman Catholic country, congratulated the new pope and said he hoped he would promote "peace and social justice at the same time as reviving the spiritual and moral values of the church."

U.S. gays were outraged at the choice of Ratzinger, who has denounced homosexuality and gay marriage.

"Today, the princes of the Roman Catholic Church elected as Pope a man whose record has been one of unrelenting, venomous hatred for gay people," said Matt Foreman of National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

While 78-year-old Ratzinger may not appear to have the same charisma as John Paul II, his brother said he was a very normal person and easy to get along with.

Speaking before the conclave, Georg Ratzinger said he thought his brother might just be too old for the job.
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