Novak (novak) wrote,

Theological Notebook: Day 1 for Benedict XVI, pt. 1

In this entry: Lots of "opening day" stories; Benedict lays out goals of his papacy; World press reactions; The Pope's brother bummed that Benedict got stuck with the job and ruined his retirement; An essay from The Independent by the Editor of The Tablet on the Pope's mission for Europe; The Pope predicts his pontificate will be a short one; The text of his homily today, laying out his vision for the future.

New Pope Vows to Work to Unify Christians

Apr 20, 10:07 AM (ET)


VATICAN CITY (AP) - Pope Benedict XVI pledged Wednesday to work to unify all Christians and reach out to other religions as he outlined his goals and made clear he would follow in the footsteps of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II.

Benedict, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, listed top priorities of his papacy in a message read in Latin to cardinals gathered in the Sistine Chapel for the first Mass celebrated by the 265th leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

He said his "primary task" would be to work to reunify all Christians and that sentiment alone was not enough. "Concrete acts that enter souls and move consciences are needed," he said.

The new pope said he wanted to continue "an open and sincere dialogue" with other religions and would do everything in his power to improve the ecumenical cause.

The message was clearly designed to show that Benedict was intent on following many of the groundbreaking paths charted by John Paul, who had made reaching out to other religions and trying to heal the 1,000-year-old schism in Christianity a hallmark of his pontificate.

Joy over the selection of a new pope was mixed with worries that Benedict could polarize a global church, whose challenges include growing secularism in rich countries and inroads by evangelical groups in regions such as Latin America.

Benedict referred to his predecessor several times in his message, including John Paul's final wishes that he hoped new generations would draw on the work of the Second Vatican Council, the 1962-65 meeting that modernized the church.

"I too ... want to affirm with decisive willingness to follow in the commitment of carrying out the Second Vatican Council, in the wake of my predecessors and in faithful continuity with the 2,000-year-old tradition of the church," Benedict said.

John Paul supported council reforms but cracked down on what both men considered excesses spawned by the changes, including calls for priests to be allowed to marry and admission of women into the priesthood.

The Vatican's hard-line enforcer of church orthodoxy under John Paul for almost 25 years, Benedict had gone into the two-day conclave as a favorite. He was elected Tuesday as the oldest pontiff in 275 years and the first Germanic pope in almost a millennium.

A cheering crowd of more than 100,000 welcomed Benedict when he stepped onto the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica as dusk fell Tuesday and gave his first blessing as pope. By contrast, St. Peter's Square was nearly empty early Wednesday, although by the end of the Mass a few hundred had gathered to watch on giant TV screens.

"We greet our Pope Benedict XVI," read a poster toted by teens from a high school in Handrup, Germany, who were in the square when his black Mercedes convertible, its top up and Vatican flags flying, zipped into and out of his former offices at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Ratzinger selected a name rich in European tradition - the first Pope Benedict, who ruled from 575-579, was declared the patron saint of Europe because of his involvement in forming Christian Europe. Vatican watchers said Ratzinger's selection of the name indicated he would emphasize the need to consolidate Europe's Christian roots.

Amid the joy, there also was disappointment Wednesday from some who viewed him as an obstacle to necessary change in the church.

"This election creates as much hope as fear," said Belgium's Deputy Prime Minister Laurette Onkelinx, who is responsible for government relations with religious communities.

"The fear is because of the past of the new pope - great defender of religious doctrine and a great conservative. One can fear he will not respond to the need for openness of the church," she said in an interview with Le Soir newspaper, insisting she was speaking in a personal capacity.

But American cardinals said Benedict had been unfairly caricatured as an unfeeling conservative, describing him instead as a caring, brilliant churchman who listens to those with opposing views.

"I think he'll play well as soon as people come to know him," said New York Cardinal Edward Egan. "This is a very unprepossessing, humble, and if I may say, lovely gentleman."

The pope's participation in the Nazi Party as a youth rang alarms in Israel. "White smoke, black past," said the headline in the mass circulation Yediot Ahronot. "From the Nazi youth movement to the Vatican."

The young Ratzinger, like all other teens, was enrolled in Hitler Youth, and was later drafted into the army.

"He was 18 years old when the war ended so everything that he had to do with the Nazi regime was as a very young man," said Moshe Zimmerman, a professor of German history at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, he said. "I don't believe that there is any room for doubt that (the pope) of today is very different than the days he belonged in the Hitler Youth."

Jewish leaders said they were encouraged by his special interest in coexistence.

"I hope that the new pope will continue the same way and he will continue to build the same bridge as the last pope built in the past between the two nations, between the Christians and the Jewish nation," said Israel's chief rabbi, Yona Metzger.

But the Greek Metropolitan Bishop, Chrisostomos of Zakynthos, expressed concern Wednesday that Benedict may not work to unite Christians. Unless his record changes, he said, "it will be a huge thorn, a great difficulty in continuing the efforts of his predecessors with the Orthodox for convergence, as was the will of Christ."

Benedict said he had been surprised by his election, and German Cardinal Joachim Meisner said Tuesday he had looked "a little forlorn" when he went to change into his papal vestments in the Room of Tears - so nicknamed because many new pontiffs get choked up there, realizing the enormity of their mission.

Meisner added: "By the time dinner came around, Ratzinger was looking much better and very much like the pope."

Benedict asked cardinals to dine together on bean soup, cold cuts, a salad and fruit, Meisner said. The nuns who prepare their meals at the Vatican hotel where the cardinals were sequestered during the conclave didn't have time to plan a special menu, so there were only two special treats - ice cream and champagne.

In his first words as pope delivered from the loggia overlooking the square, Benedict paid tribute in accented Italian to "the great John Paul II." He called himself "a simple, humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord."

It was a sign of John Paul's charismatic legacy looming over the new pontiff, who is described by people who know him as intellectual, cultured and rather reserved.

Benedict said Wednesday he felt John Paul's presence as he wrestled with two conflicting emotions following the election: thanks to God for the gift of being pope but also "a sense of inadequacy" in carrying out the responsibility.

"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.'"

Benedict, who turned 78 on Saturday, is the oldest pope elected since Clement XII in 1730. His age clearly was a factor among cardinals who favored a "transitional" pope who could skillfully lead the church as it absorbs John Paul's legacy, rather than a younger cardinal who could wind up with another long pontificate.

His election in four ballots over two days concluded one of the shortest conclaves in 100 years.

A conservative on issues such as homosexuality, the ordination of women and lifting the celibacy requirement for priests, Benedict has led the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - a position he used to discipline church dissidents and uphold church policy against attempts at reform by liberals and activist priests.

"God has taken the most unusual people and placed them in places of authority, power if you will, and used them for his purposes," said American Cardinal Adam Maida. "So I believe that Cardinal Ratzinger, with all his gifts and talents and even some of his shortcomings, will somehow be able to reach others."

British Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor suggested Ratzinger might temper some of his positions, at least publicly, because of the office he now holds.

"The pope now has a platform and a place he didn't have before. Now he has much wider responsibilities, and I think he's aware of that," Murphy-O'Connor said, adding that Ratzinger was elected "notwithstanding his age."

Benedict inherits a range of pressing issues. These include priest sex-abuse scandals that have cost the church millions of dollars in settlements in the United States and elsewhere, chronic shortages of priests and nuns in the West, and calls for easing the ban on condoms to help fight the spread of AIDS.

And he has to follow in the footsteps of John Paul, the global pontiff who made 104 international trips in his more than 26 years as pope and set new standards in reaching out to other religions.

"He could be a wedge rather than a unifier for the church," said the Rev. Thomas Reese, editor of the Jesuit weekly magazine America.

In an indication that he would indeed travel and continue to reach out to young people, Benedict said Wednesday he planned to attend the church's World Youth Day celebrations in Cologne, Germany, in August.

Two images of Ratzinger have emerged in recent days.

With his wispy silver hair blowing in the wind, the German prelate stood before the world's political and spiritual leaders at John Paul's funeral April 8 and offered an eloquent and sensitive farewell that moved some to tears.

Then, just before the cardinals entered the conclave Monday, he made clear where he stands ideologically, using words that John Paul would surely have endorsed. He warned about tendencies that he considered dangers to the faith: sects and ideologies like Marxism, liberalism, atheism, agnosticism and relativism - the ideology that there are no absolute truths.

"We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires," he said.

He has denounced rock music, dismissed anyone who had tried to find "feminist" meanings in the Bible, and last year told American bishops it was appropriate to deny Communion to those who support abortion and euthanasia.

Benedict is the first Germanic pope in nearly 1,000 years. His faith is rooted in Bavaria, the Alpine region with Germany's strongest Catholic identity. Like many of his generation, he carries the burden of Germany's past.


Associated Press writers Tony Czuczka, Vanessa Gera, Brian Murphy, Daniela Petroff, Niko Price and Rachel Zoll contributed to this story.

In this photo made available by the L'Osservatore Romano Vatican newspaper, newly elected Pope Benedict XVI celebrates a Mass in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican, Wednesday, April 20, 2005. Benedict, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, listed top priorities of his pontificate in a lengthy message read in Latin to cardinals gathered for the first Mass celebrated by the 265th leader of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All right reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Benedict XVI Sets Out Papal Goals in First Public Mass

By ELISABETTA POVOLEDO for the New York Times
Published: April 20, 2005

ROME, April 20 - In his first Mass as pope, Benedict XVI reached out to the church today, setting out some of the themes of his papacy in conciliatory language.

He specified some of the top priorities of his papacy: the promotion of the unity of Christians and a commitment to ecumenism, the continued dialogue with other religions and the fulfillment of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

Speaking in Latin, as is customary, in the brightly frescoed Sistine Chapel, where he was elected only a day before, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, 78, also made repeated references to his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, confirming that his own papacy would be one of continuity.

He told the gold-robed cardinals in attendance that he would assume as his primary task the "full and visible unity of all the followers of Christ."

More than a task, he said, it was a duty where "concrete gestures" were required and not vague motions of good sentiment.

American cardinals said today that the new pope had been unfairly caricatured as an unfeeling conservative in his role for more than two decades as the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican's chief doctrinal watchdog.

They instead described him, at a news conference at the Pontifical North American College, as a caring, brilliant churchman who listens to those with opposing views.

"He wants to be collegial," said Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington. "He wants the advice of cardinals. That for me is one of the great things."

Cardinal Edward Egan of New York called Pope Benedict calm and strong. "I think he'll play well as soon as people come to know him," he said. "This is a very unprepossessing, humble, and if I may say, lovely gentleman."

Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles said, "We have to get to know this man" beyond his public image as a cold disciplinarian.

In a homily on Monday, Cardinal Ratzinger said that Christians were being tossed about by the waves of Marxism, collectivism, libertinism and atheism.

And he was highly critical of the creation of new "sects," a term often used by church leaders to refer to Christian evangelical movements, drawing Christians into what he said was "error."

But in his first homily as pontiff he took a much softer stance, saying he was disposed "to do what was in his power to promote the fundamental cause of ecumenism."

And in a gesture perhaps intended to allay the fears of those critics who saw his election as shutting the door on the inter-religious dialogue started by his predecessor, Pope Benedict appealed to "those who follow other religions," reassuring them that the church wanted to continue to construct "an open and sincere dialogue" with them.

He also promised to continue carrying out the Second Vatican Council, "in the wake of my predecessors and in faithful continuity with the bi-millenary tradition of the church.

Forty years after the end of the council that radically reformed the church, he said, "the council documents have not lost their actuality," and their teachings are particularly important to the current petitions of the church and today's "globalized society."

The 265th leader of the Roman Catholic Church made frequent references to his predecessor, John Paul II, and to the immense outpouring of public affection that accompanied his final illness and death. The late pope, he said, left a church that is "more courageous, more free and more young."

His final thoughts in the homily were for the young, and Pope Benedict said he looked forward to meeting "the future and hope of the church and humanity" in Bonn next August for World Youth Day. He pledged to continue the dialogue launched by his predecessor, and promised to listen to their expectations.

Pope celebrates Mass, pledges to lead church toward unity, dialogue

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- After celebrating Mass with the cardinals who elected him, Pope Benedict XVI pledged that he would lead the church on the path of unity, dialogue and evangelization.

"I turn to everyone with simplicity and affection, to assure them that the church wants to continue to build an open and sincere dialogue with them, in the search of the true good of man and society," he said at the end of a liturgy in the Sistine Chapel April 20.

Dressed in light gold vestments, the pope read his four-page Latin message in a clear and forceful voice, paying tribute to Pope John Paul II and outlining the priorities of his own pontificate.

Pope Benedict said that, like his predecessor, he considered the Second Vatican Council the compass for the modern church. In particular, he stressed his commitment to ecumenism and dialogue and said he was aware that "concrete gestures" were sometimes needed to promote breaking through old antagonisms.

At the same time, he said the chief priority for the modern church is to announce Christ to the world.

"The church today has to renew its awareness of the task of re-proposing to the world the voice of the one who said: 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life,'" he said.

"As he begins his ministry, the new pope knows that his task is to make the light of Christ shine before the men and women of today: not his own light, but that of Christ," he said.

The white-haired pope faced 114 cardinals seated at the same long tables used in the papal election and spoke from a chair beneath Michelangelo's fresco of the "Last Judgment."

The 9 a.m. liturgy was broadcast live on giant TV screens in a virtually empty St. Peter's Square. The evening before, some 100,000 people had gathered for the dramatic announcement of Pope Benedict's election and had cheered him at his first public appearance.

The pope said he had been completely surprised at his election, which came on the fourth ballot of the conclave. He said he began his papacy with two emotions: a sense of "inadequacy" and the confidence that God would help him.

As head of the Vatican's doctrinal congregation since 1981, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was a controversial figure for many in the church because of his strong line against dissent, his disciplining of theologians and his criticism of some of the ways Vatican II has been implemented.

In his first major talk as pope, he went out of his way to say he would proceed along the lines taken by his predecessor.

"I want to forcefully affirm the strong desire to continue in the task of implementing the Second Vatican Council," he said.

He said Vatican II's documents were especially relevant to the modern church and today's globalized society and that the council's "authoritative" rereading of the Gospel would guide the church in the third millennium.

Pope Benedict also stressed the need for close unity between the pope and the world's bishops. This collegial communion, he said, favors "unity in the faith, on which depends in large measure the effectiveness of the church's evangelizing efforts in the modern world."

He asked bishops to accompany him "with prayers and with advice, so that I may truly be the 'servant of the servants of God.'"

Pope Benedict pledged to make the search for Christian unity a special priority. He called ecumenism a "compelling duty" and said he would "spare no energy" in trying to bring Christian churches together.

He said ecumenism must go beyond theological dialogue and probe the historical motives for the divisions among Christians.

"What is most needed is that 'purification of memory' so often mentioned by John Paul II, which is the only thing that can lead souls to welcome the full truth of Christ," he said.

Acknowledging his predecessor's special relationship with young people, the new pope pledged that the church would continue to dialogue with them.

He said he intended to travel in August to Cologne, Germany, for World Youth Day celebrations -- a tradition begun by Pope John Paul.

Pope Benedict underlined the importance of the current eucharistic year, also an initiative of the late pope, saying the Eucharist would be at the center of the Cologne festivities and of the Synod of Bishops in October.

He asked all the faithful to reflect on the centrality of the Eucharist. Many other things -- including church unity, evangelization and charity toward all, especially the poor -- depend on it, he said.

The new pope recalled Pope John Paul with great affection and said he felt encouraged by the late pontiff as he began his own papacy.

"I seem to feel his strong hand squeezing mine; I seem to see his smiling eyes and listen to his words, addressed particularly to me in this moment: 'Do not be afraid!'" he said.

Pope Benedict said the death and funeral of Pope John Paul represented "an extraordinary time of grace for the whole world." He said it was a moment in which one could feel "the power of God who, through his church, wants to form a great family of all peoples."

In his promise to keep dialogue open, the new pope mentioned the followers of other religions and people who are "simply searching for an answer to the fundamental questions of existence and have not found it yet."

He said he made this overture with the awareness that the church's mission is to bring the light of Christ to all peoples.

The pope spoke fleetingly about the church's continued commitment to peace and justice issues. He said he would continue the dialogue of his predecessors with "the various civilizations," convinced that the conditions for a better future in the world depend on mutual understanding.

Pope Benedict told the cardinals he felt an "enormous weight of responsibility" as the new pontiff, but was certain of divine assistance.

"By choosing me as the bishop of Rome, the Lord wanted me as his vicar, he wanted me to be the rock on which everyone can lean with assurance," he said.

"I ask him to supplement my scarce resources, so that I may be a courageous and faithful pastor of his flock, always obedient to the inspirations of his Spirit," he said.

Brother Says Burdens on Pope Worry Him

Apr 20, 11:41 AM (ET)


REGENSBURG, Germany (AP) - The older brother of Pope Benedict XVI said Wednesday he is worried about the burdens of the office on the pontiff and complained he won't get to see him so often.

"I'm not very happy," the Rev. Georg Ratzinger, 81, told The Associated Press, sitting in his sunlit Regensburg apartment, a newspaper with a front-page photo of Benedict in his papal robes on the table in front of him.

"The public doesn't see the other side, but it's a difficult job," Ratzinger said.

Ratzinger hopes to get to Rome to see his 78-year-old brother soon - perhaps as soon as Saturday.

"He's OK, and his health is good," Ratzinger said. "I just wish for him, that his health holds out and that his office isn't a worry and a nuisance to him."

As cardinal, Joseph Ratzinger managed to visit Regensburg four or five times a year, and has a house outside town.

"Family life might be a bit more limited," the elder Ratzinger said.

Georg, whose sight is failing, wasn't able to watch his brother come to the window of St. Peter's Basilica on television Tuesday, but he was told about the smile on his face.

"Maybe the sight of rejoicing people loosens one up," he said.

He didn't even hear from his brother until Wednesday morning because "I had the phone off the hook."

The elder Ratzinger, who was ordained on the same day as Joseph, said those who have reservations about the theological views of his brother should look past the image and understand that he is a "modest, simple and cheerful person."

"These are prejudices that people have against him," Ratzinger said.

His brother will be pope in his own way, he said.

"Because of his close cooperation with John Paul II, there will be a certain continuity. But because of his different temperament and different circumstances, there will be different emphases," he said.

Georg Ratzinger said the poor will be close to his brother's heart, saying he was moved "very deeply" by seeing extreme poverty during several trips to South America.

Georg Ratzinger, brother of the newly elected Pope Benedict XVI, German Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, holds a local newspaper with a picture of his brother in Regensburg, southern Germany, Wednesday, April 20, 2005. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, the Roman Catholic Church's leading hard-liner, was elected pope Tuesday in the first conclave of the new millennium. (AP Photo/Uwe Lein)

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All right reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

World Press Focus on Conservative, German Pope

Apr 20, 11:19 AM (ET)

By Alastair Macdonald

LONDON (Reuters) - Conservative. And German.

The world's press pounced on perhaps the only two facts most knew about Joseph Ratzinger and stressed either one or the other in coverage on Wednesday of his election as Pope Benedict XVI.

Talk of the "Panzer Cardinal" or "God's Rottweiler," the "enforcer" of dogma under John Paul II, was marked in strongly Catholic countries, where the new pontiff's word carries weight.

Others -- not least somewhat dazed commentators in his homeland -- seized on the novelty of the first German pope in a 1,000 years, a former conscript in Hitler's army taking a leading role in the world 60 years after the defeat of Nazism.

In mainly Protestant northern Europe, Ratzinger's life story attracted great attention: "From Hitler Youth to Holy See," splashed Dutch daily Algemeen Dagblad on its front page.

In Italy, backyard of the Roman papacy, left-wing La Repubblica called him "A Warrior To Challenge Modernity."

"An apostle of orthodoxy," concluded Venezuela's El Nacional, reflecting disappointment in Latin America, home to half the world's billion Catholics, at yet another pope from Europe with little sympathy for reformists in the Americas.

From his native Bavaria, though, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung said he was no "monster" and might be surprisingly flexible.

That hope was taken up by the Sun-Times in Chicago, one of the bastions of U.S. Catholicism: "Just as John Paul II surprised us in becoming a force in the world with his extensive travels, the new pope may have surprises in store in going from a Vatican insider to carrying a message of universality to the church's 1.1 billion members ... We can only wish him Godspeed."

Catholic Austria's Die Presse wrote: "For European and North American Catholics in particular, the new pope is a symbol of dogmatic rigidity."

"There is no reason to expect any change of course for the Church when it comes to matters like birth control, priestly celibacy or homosexuality," said The New York Times.

Leftist Mexican daily La Jornada recalled the new pope's past as a persecutor of radical "liberation theology" priests in Latin America.

"Ratzinger, however, lacks that charismatic personality. He is dry and hard, as the infinite number of Catholic clergymen and theologians persecuted mercilessly by the German cardinal know well."


"Confronting growing secularisation and loss of face in the European heartlands of Catholicism will be clear priorities," wrote the Irish Times in Catholic Dublin. "But if these issues are tackled by empowering conservative movements and organizations against modernist and reformist Catholics, Pope Benedict will deepen rather than heal divisions in his church."

Belgium's Le Soir warned of the risk of "schism."

That the Pope is German elicited earnest praise -- Croatia's Jutarnji List, hailing a "watershed in global politics," said: "Choosing Cardinal Ratzinger, a German and former soldier in Hitler's army, the Catholic Church has made a strong symbolic contribution to removing the German people's historic guilt."

It also prompted snappier headlines in European papers not slow to remind Germans of past failings: Britain's Sun, over a photograph of the new Pontiff greeting the masses and the media, punned: "From Hitler Youth to... PAPA RATZI." It did later point out he was "forced into" the Nazi youth movement as a teenager.

The paper's mass-selling German equivalent unsurprisingly took a different, if similarly nationalistic, line: "We Are The Pope!" screamed Bild, published in Protestant northern Germany.


Below the headlines, there was room for more nuanced comment on the prospects for the papacy that follows the historic 26-year rule of the Polish pontiff, John Paul II.

Italy's La Stampa said: "It would be too easy and misleading to see in the German Pontiff ... only a stubborn conservative, a restorer of medieval dogmas, a lone knight of an unjustifiably restrictive catechism which punishes Western secularism."

Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung, from Catholic Munich where Benedict was once archbishop, said: "Joseph Ratzinger is a conservative with whom one can have one's differences but he's not a sort of universal monster. Again and again he has been a surprise and broken through the image of the Panzer Cardinal."

Some focused on Benedict's advanced age as a factor in his election: "The cardinals do not want another long pontificate; Ratzinger is 78," said Protestant Sweden's Dagens Nyheter.

Switzerland's Tagesanzeiger welcomed him with the headline: "A German Transitional Pope."

In Poland, still mourning the death of his predecessor, Ratzinger's would be "a continuation of John Paul's papacy," in the eyes of Rzeczpospolita, while Israelis also saw a continuity of his forerunner's quest for reconciliation with Jews: "New pope seen continuing relations with Israel, Jews," said Haaretz.

Less happy were editorialists in Turkey, which Ratzinger angered by speaking out against it becoming the first mainly Muslim member state of the European Union: "The new pope is against Turkey," said the liberal daily Radikal in a headline.

The gay press lamented his hard line against homosexuality; Henk Krok, editor of Dutch magazine Gay Krant, said: "The white smoke from the Vatican was black for many homosexuals."

The front pages of German newspapers show newly elected Pope Benedict XVI in Berlin late April 19, 2005. Presidents, religious leaders and many of the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics welcomed Joseph Ratzinger's election as Pope, but liberals among the faithful feared the Pontiff would bring scant reform. Photo by Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

Copyright 2005 Reuters. All right reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Catherine Pepinster: A German Pope chosen to save Europe

The fact that Ratzinger chose not to be John Paul III shows he will be keen to be a distinctive Pope

20 April 2005

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger - Pope Benedict XVI - is a Pope for Europe. It cannot be by chance that he has taken the name of Benedict, patron saint of Europe, for his papal title.

As prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a post he held under the late Pope John Paul II for 23 years, Joseph Ratzinger became increasingly concerned about the secularisation of Europe, the threats to its very Christian soul. This was a European, after all, who was both steeped in Bavarian piety, and as a child had grown up in Hitler's shadow.

Later, reflecting on the war and on Nazism, he had rejected the lesson drawn by other German theologians, who perceived that its central lesson was the dangers of blind obedience. Instead, he decided that only a faith based on a Church with sound doctrinal values, and a strong central authority could withstand a hostile culture.

It is of course his work in confronting hostile culture for which he has become best known. The enforcer, the panzercardinal, the rottweiler - these are the nicknames by which he has become known by the press in recent years. Joseph Ratzinger was the architect of many of John Paul II's most controversial issues. He has cracked down on liberation theology in Latin America; rejected any idea of gay marriage; countered feminists in the Church, put limits on dissent, and of course, in tandem with his rejection of secularisation, been hostile to pluralism.

Will this be a man in John Paul II's shadow, a man who was chosen to continue his work? The fact that Cardinal Ratzinger chose not to be John Paul III is probably indicative of the fact that Joseph Ratzinger will be keen to assert himself, to be a distinctive Pope.

It seems highly likely that the cardinals in the conclave, of which the majority were Europeans, will have wanted someone who would address their own great concern - that Europe, once the Catholic Church's heartland, is now its lost continent. While some observers suggested the time had come for a Pope from Catholicism's thriving African and Latin American nations, the cardinals and bishops of Europe have been convinced that Europe needed renewed guidance.

They have watched with alarm the falling Mass attendances, the empty seminaries, the laity's disinclination to accept the Church's teaching on contraception, and the failure of Catholic marriages, which have all served to bring about a crisis of confidence.

Not that such a crisis is new in Europe. The Church has faced the Reformation, the Enlightenment, liberalism and capitalism, Marxism and fascism. It has lost some of the battles, and won others. Joseph Ratzinger will have watched John Paul II face down Communism. But in postmodern Europe, the problems have been more insidious. Today not only Catholicism but Christianity has been perceived as little more than a lifestyle option.

The crisis over Christianity was made apparent by the dismay expressed by the Church at the proposal to exclude a reference to Christianity in the European Constitution. And Joseph Ratzinger's views about Europe were made apparent when, last year, he came out against the candidacy of Turkey to join the European Union.

But the fears for Christian Europe are far more profound than concerns over a constitution. There is a sense that the affluent, materialist continent has lost its soul.

Can Benedict XVI help it find it again? This is a Pope who is more of a theologian than a pastor. But the Pope is not just a man of theory. He has to be a shepherd of his flock, guiding one billion Catholics throughout the world. Perhaps this Benedict will take as his mentor the last Pope Benedict - Benedict XV - elected in 1914 as Joseph Ratzinger's own country went to war. Under Benedict XV the papacy had its own war aims - the defence of Austria-Hungary, the last great Catholic power, and the prevention of orthodox influences into Europe. Above all, Benedict XV sought peace, seeking to support peace initiatives from different sides, trying to dissuade the United States from entering the conflict.

Benedict XV found a way to work with people of many opinions. The Church, including those progressives who will have been viewed this election with some dismay will be looking to the new Pope to bring its many disparate strands together, to reveal a talent for understanding the position of those not just on his side, but those who at first glance perceive the Church in a very different way.

Those who know Joseph Ratzinger say he is a man of kindness, of sharp intelligence, who could sometimes be a moderating influence on John Paul II. After all, it was he who opposed John Paul II's desire to make teaching on birth control infallible.

And for those of us who want, not a Church of fashion, but one of compassion, a Church that can start to understand, for instance, why using birth control is surely not a sin, or the use of condoms to counter Aids in Africa should not be seen as an evil, we should take heart that Joseph Ratzinger has taken the name Benedict. For the first word in the Rule of St Benedict, father of Europe, is the most important. It is Listen. Listen, Benedict XVI, to the people of the Church, the people of Europe, and the people of the world.

The writer is editor of 'The Tablet', the Catholic weekly

Pope Predicted a Short Reign to Cardinals

Apr 20, 9:05 PM (ET)


VATICAN CITY (AP) - Pope Benedict XVI predicted a "short reign" in comments to cardinals just after his election, and his brother said Wednesday he was worried about the stress the job would put on the 78-year-old pontiff.

Joseph Ratzinger has had ailments in the past, including a 1991 hemorrhagic stroke, that raise questions about how long his papacy will last - and whether the world will watch another pope slowly succumb to age and ailments on a very public stage. Benedict was the oldest pontiff elected in 275 years.

German prelates have expressed concern about Ratzinger's health. One young priest from Cologne, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press in Rome that Benedict has trouble sleeping and has a "delicate constitution." The pope's brother expressed a similar concern in a television interview.

The Vatican refused to comment Wednesday on Benedict's health, citing his privacy. The Vatican never officially confirmed Pope John Paul II suffered from Parkinson's disease until after he died at age 84.

Several cardinals, however, acknowledged that Benedict's term will be marked in years, not decades, and that he likely will not be the globe-trotting pope that John Paul became after taking the helm of the Roman Catholic Church at age 58.

"We'll see what he feels like. I mean he's not a 56-year-old, you know," said British Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor. "He's a little bit older than that. So he may not do too much traveling. But you never know."

Benedict himself referred to his tenure in comments to cardinals just after his election Tuesday, when he explained his choice of name. Pope Benedict XV, who served from 1914 to 1922, worked to prevent World War I during his brief pontificate.

Chicago Cardinal Francis George said Ratzinger, who had repeatedly asked John Paul to let him retire, told the cardinals, "I too hope in this short reign to be a man of peace."

While he has no apparent history of chronic health problems, the German was hospitalized at least twice in the early 1990s, including in September 1991 after he suffered a hemorrhagic stroke that temporarily affected his vision, according to Time magazine and Vatican journalist John Allen in his 2000 book "Cardinal Ratzinger." There is no indication the stroke left any lingering health difficulties.

A hemorrhagic stroke, otherwise known as a bleeding stroke, can be caused by many things, including high blood pressure, head injury or weak blood vessels. It is different from an ischemic stroke, which is caused by a blockage in the blood vessels in the brain.

In August 1992, during a vacation in the Italian Alps, Ratzinger was knocked unconscious when he fell against a radiator and bled profusely, Time and the Italian news agency ANSA reported at the time.

Time quoted him as saying a year later: "Thank God, there are hardly any traces of it now."

Benedict's brother, the Rev. Georg Ratzinger, told the AP on Wednesday from Regensburg, Germany, that he was concerned about his brother's health and the stress of the papacy.

"I'm not very happy," Georg Ratzinger said. "He's OK, and his health is good. I just wish for him, that his health holds out and that his office isn't a worry and a nuisance to him."

Polish Cardinal Jozef Glemp said Ratzinger's age came up during the deliberations only because the cardinal turned 78 during the pre-conclave meetings Saturday "and so there were well wishes. But nothing more."

"The pope seems to be in very good physical condition for his age," Glemp told the AP.

But Ratzinger, the oldest pope elected since Clement XII in 1730, was clearly chosen as a transitional pope who would fulfill the unfinished business of John Paul's 26-year yet not be another long-term pontiff.

"Obviously he's 78 so he's not going to have decades ahead of him, but he has a lot of zeal and energy, and he has already committed himself fully to the work ahead of him," Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony told CNN.

Thomas Frauenlob, director of St. Michael's seminary in Traunstein, Germany, where the pope studied as a youth and still visits annually, said he had never heard of any major ailments.

"He seems healthy," said Frauenlob, who last saw him over the New Year's holiday. "He comes and eats and drinks whatever he wants."


Associated Press writers Frances D'Emilio, Rachel Zoll and Daniela Petroff in Rome and Maria Marquardt in Regensburg, Germany, contributed to this report.

In this photo made available by the L'Osservatore Romano Vatican newspaper, Pope Benedict XVI, flanked by Cardinal Camerlengo Edoardo Martinez Somalo of Spain, left, and Cardinal Angelo Sodano of Italy, signs a document in his new studio at the Vatican, Wednesday, April 20, 2005. Pope Benedict XVI, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, visited the Papal apartments Wednesday. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All right reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Text Sistine

By Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Here is the English translation by the Vatican Information Service of Pope Benedict XVI's first message after his election, delivered in Latin at the end of an April 20 Mass with the College of Cardinals in the Sistine Chapel.

Grace and peace in abundance to all of you! In my soul there are two contrasting sentiments in these hours. On the one hand, a sense of inadequacy and human turmoil for the responsibility entrusted to me yesterday as the successor of the apostle Peter in this see of Rome, with regard to the universal church. On the other hand I sense within me profound gratitude to God who -- as the liturgy makes us sing -- does not abandon his flock, but leads it throughout time, under the guidance of those whom he has chosen as vicars of his Son, and made pastors.

Dear ones, this intimate recognition for a gift of divine mercy prevails in my heart in spite of everything. I consider this a grace obtained for me by my venerated predecessor, John Paul II. It seems I can feel his strong hand squeezing mine; I seem to see his smiling eyes and listen to his words, addressed to me especially at this moment: "Do not be afraid!"

The death of the Holy Father John Paul II, and the days which followed, were for the church and for the entire world an extraordinary time of grace. The great pain for his death and the void that it left in all of us were tempered by the action of the risen Christ, which showed itself during long days in the choral wave of faith, love and spiritual solidarity, culminating in his solemn funeral.

We can say it: The funeral of John Paul II was a truly extraordinary experience in which was perceived in some way the power of God who, through his church, wishes to form a great family of all peoples, through the unifying force of truth and love. In the hour of death, conformed to his Master and Lord, John Paul II crowned his long and fruitful pontificate, confirming the Christian people in faith, gathering them around him and making the entire human family feel more united.

How can one not feel sustained by this witness? How can one not feel the encouragement that comes from this event of grace?

Surprising every prevision I had, Divine Providence, through the will of the venerable cardinal fathers, called me to succeed this great pope. I have been thinking in these hours about what happened in the region of Cesarea of Phillippi 2,000 years ago: I seem to hear the words of Peter: "You are Christ, the son of the living God," and the solemn affirmation of the Lord: "You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church. ... I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven."

You are Christ! You are Peter! It seems I am reliving this very Gospel scene; I, the successor of Peter, repeat with trepidation the anxious words of the fisherman from Galilee and I listen again with intimate emotion to the reassuring promise of the divine Master. If the weight of the responsibility that now lies on my poor shoulders is enormous, the divine power on which I can count is surely immeasurable: "You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church." Electing me as the bishop of Rome, the Lord wanted me as his vicar, he wished me to be the "rock" upon which everyone may rest with confidence. I ask him to make up for the poverty of my strength, that I may be a courageous and faithful pastor of his flock, always docile to the inspirations of his Spirit.

I undertake this special ministry, the 'Petrine' ministry at the service of the universal church, with humble abandon to the hands of the providence of God. And it is to Christ in the first place that I renew my total and trustworthy adhesion: "In te, Domine, speravi; non confundar in aeternum!"

To you, lord cardinals, with a grateful soul for the trust shown me, I ask you to sustain me with prayer and with constant, active and wise collaboration. I also ask my brothers in the episcopacy to be close to me in prayer and counsel so that I may truly be the "servus servorum Dei" (servant of the servants of God). As Peter and the other apostles were, through the will of the Lord, one apostolic college, in the same way the successor of Peter and the bishops, successors of the apostles -- and the council forcefully repeated this -- must be closely united among themselves. This collegial communion, even in the diversity of roles and functions of the supreme pontiff and the bishops, is at the service of the church and the unity of faith, from which depend in a notable measure the effectiveness of the evangelizing action of the contemporary world. Thus, this path, upon which my venerated predecessors went forward, I too intend to follow, concerned solely with proclaiming to the world the living presence of Christ.

Before my eyes is, in particular, the witness of Pope John Paul II. He leaves us a church that is more courageous, freer, younger. A church that, according to his teaching and example, looks with serenity to the past and is not afraid of the future. With the great jubilee the church was introduced into the new millennium carrying in her hands the Gospel, applied to the world through the authoritative rereading of Vatican Council II. Pope John Paul II justly indicated the council as a "compass" with which to orient ourselves in the vast ocean of the third millennium. Also in his spiritual testament he noted: "I am convinced that for a very long time the new generations will draw upon the riches that this council of the 20th century gave us."

I, too, as I start in the service that is proper to the successor of Peter, wish to affirm with force my decided will to pursue the commitment to enact Vatican Council II, in the wake of my predecessors and in faithful continuity with the millennia-old tradition of the church. Precisely this year is the 40th anniversary of the conclusion of this conciliar assembly (Dec. 8, 1965). With the passing of time, the conciliar documents have not lost their timeliness; their teachings have shown themselves to be especially pertinent to the new exigencies of the church and the present globalized society.

In a very significant way, my pontificate starts as the church is living the special year dedicated to the Eucharist. How can I not see in this providential coincidence an element that must mark the ministry to which I have been called? The Eucharist, the heart of Christian life and the source of the evangelizing mission of the church, cannot but be the permanent center and the source of the Petrine service entrusted to me.

The Eucharist makes the risen Christ constantly present, Christ who continues to give himself to us, calling us to participate in the banquet of his body and his blood. From this full communion with him comes every other element of the life of the church, in the first place the communion among the faithful, the commitment to proclaim and give witness to the Gospel, the ardor of charity toward all, especially toward the poor and the smallest.

In this year, therefore, the solemnity of Corpus Christi must be celebrated in a particularly special way. The Eucharist will be at the center, in August, of World Youth Day in Cologne and, in October, of the ordinary assembly of the Synod of Bishops which will take place on the theme "The Eucharist, Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church." I ask everyone to intensify in coming months love and devotion to the eucharistic Jesus and to express in a courageous and clear way the real presence of the Lord, above all through the solemnity and the correctness of the celebrations.

I ask this in a special way of priests, about whom I am thinking in this moment with great affection. The priestly ministry was born in the Cenacle, together with the Eucharist, as my venerated predecessor John Paul II underlined so many times. "The priestly life must have in a special way a 'eucharistic form,' he wrote in his last letter for Holy Thursday. The devout daily celebration of holy Mass, the center of the life and mission of every priest, contributes to this end.

Nourished and sustained by the Eucharist, Catholics cannot but feel stimulated to tend toward that full unity for which Christ hoped in the Cenacle. Peter's successor knows that he must take on this supreme desire of the divine Master in a particularly special way. To him, indeed, has been entrusted the duty of strengthening his brethren.

Thus, in full awareness and at the beginning of his ministry in the church of Rome that Peter bathed with his blood, the current successor assumes as his primary commitment that of working tirelessly toward the reconstitution of the full and visible unity of all Christ's followers. This is his ambition, this is his compelling duty. He is aware that to do so expressions of good feelings are not enough. Concrete gestures are required to penetrate souls and move consciences, encouraging everyone to that interior conversion which is the basis for all progress on the road of ecumenism.

Theological dialogue is necessary. A profound examination of the historical reasons behind past choices is also indispensable. But even more urgent is that "purification of memory," which was so often evoked by John Paul II, and which alone can dispose souls to welcome the full truth of Christ. It is before him, supreme judge of all living things, that each of us must stand, in the awareness that one day we must explain to him what we did and what we did not do for the great good that is the full and visible unity of all his disciples.

The current successor of Peter feels himself to be personally implicated in this question and is disposed to do all in his power to promote the fundamental cause of ecumenism. In the wake of his predecessors, he is fully determined to cultivate any initiative that may seem appropriate to promote contact and agreement with representatives from the various churches and ecclesial communities. Indeed, on this occasion too, he sends them his most cordial greetings in Christ, the one lord of all.

In this moment, I go back in my memory to the unforgettable experience we all underwent with the death and the funeral of the lamented John Paul II. Around his mortal remains, lying on the bare earth, leaders of nations gathered, with people from all social classes and especially the young, in an unforgettable embrace of affection and admiration. The entire world looked to him with trust. To many it seemed as if that intense participation, amplified to the confines of the planet by the social communications media, was like a choral request for help addressed to the pope by modern humanity which, wracked by fear and uncertainty, questions itself about the future.

The church today must revive within herself an awareness of the task to present the world again with the voice of the one who said: "I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life." In undertaking his ministry, the new pope knows that his task is to bring the light of Christ to shine before the men and women of today: not his own light but that of Christ.

With this awareness, I address myself to everyone, even to those who follow other religions or who are simply seeking an answer to the fundamental questions of life and have not yet found it. I address everyone with simplicity and affection, to assure them that the church wants to continue to build an open and sincere dialogue with them, in a search for the true good of mankind and of society.

From God I invoke unity and peace for the human family and declare the willingness of all Catholics to cooperate for true social development, one that respects the dignity of all human beings.

I will make every effort and dedicate myself to pursuing the promising dialogue that my predecessors began with various civilizations, because it is mutual understanding that gives rise to conditions for a better future for everyone.

I am particularly thinking of young people. To them, the privileged interlocutors of John Paul II, I send an affectionate embrace in the hope, God willing, of meeting them at Cologne on the occasion of the next World Youth Day. With you, dear young people, I will continue to maintain a dialogue, listening to your expectations in an attempt to help you meet ever more profoundly the living, ever young Christ.

"Mane nobiscum, Domine!" Stay with us, Lord! This invocation, which forms the dominant theme of John Paul II's apostolic letter for the Year of the Eucharist, is the prayer that comes spontaneously from my heart as I turn to begin the ministry to which Christ has called me. Like Peter, I too renew to him my unconditional promise of faithfulness. He alone I intend to serve as I dedicate myself totally to the service of his church.

In support of this promise, I invoke the maternal intercession of Mary most holy, in whose hands I place the present and the future of my person and of the church. May the holy apostles Peter and Paul, and all the saints, also intercede.

With these sentiments I impart to you venerated brother cardinals, to those participating in this ritual, and to all those following us by television and radio a special and affectionate blessing.

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