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Controversial German Cardinal Elected Pope

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  • Greg Cannon
    You all may have noticed already, but there is a new pope.
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 19, 2005
      You all may have noticed already, but there is a new

      Controversial German Cardinal Elected Pope
      Tue Apr 19, 2005 02:17 PM ET

      By Philip Pullella and Crispian Balmer

      VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Cardinals on Tuesday elected
      conservative German prelate Joseph Ratzinger as the
      new leader of the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics,
      in a controversial choice to succeed Pope John Paul

      Ratzinger, 78, the Church's 265th pontiff, will take
      the name of Benedict XVI. The speed of the election --
      on only the second day of a secret cardinals conclave
      -- and its result were both a surprise.

      Many Vatican experts had said Ratzinger, John Paul's
      doctrinal watchdog for 23 years, was too divisive and
      too old to become pope.

      They had predicted he would have to cede to a more
      conciliatory compromise figure during the conclave.

      His election indicated both that the cardinals wanted
      to maintain John Paul's strict Church orthodoxy and
      also to have a short, transitional papacy after the
      Polish pope's 26-year reign -- the third longest in
      Church history.

      "I was surprised for a couple of reasons. One is his
      age...The second is that I thought he might have been
      too much of a polarizing person. But that may not be
      the perception that was shared by the cardinals," said
      Lawrence Cunningham, theology professor at the
      University of Notre Dame in Indiana. The new pope
      appeared on the balcony of St Peter's Basilica soon
      after his election, smiling broadly and greeting
      cheering crowds in the square. "I entrust myself to
      your prayers," he said.

      Clad in white papal vestments and a short red cape, he
      delivered his first blessing to the city of Rome and
      the world.


      Ratzinger, dean of the cardinals, had dominated the
      Vatican since the death of Pope John Paul on April 2.
      He presided over the funeral Mass and daily meetings
      of cardinals since then.

      He used a homily at a Mass before the conclave to
      issue a stern warning that godless modern trends must
      be rejected. The address was widely seen as promoting
      his candidacy.

      Ratzinger's stern leadership of the Congregation of
      the Doctrine of the Faith, the modern successor to the
      Inquisition, delighted conservative Catholics but
      upset moderates and other Christians whose churches he
      described as deficient.

      The election in the Vatican's frescoed Sistine Chapel
      was signaled by white smoke from the chapel chimney
      and the tolling of the bells of St. Peter's.

      But there were 10 minutes of confusion over the color
      of the smoke, which initially seemed grey, before the
      bells began pealing to signal the successful election.

      Black smoke signals an inconclusive vote. Even Vatican
      radio had initially said the color of the smoke was

      Tens of thousands of people in the square cheered and
      applauded even before the bells began to ring,
      shouting "A pope, a pope!" Many held up crosses or

      Hundreds more people flooded into the square when they
      heard the news.

      "I knew (the smoke) was white! We have a new pope,"
      said 19-year-old Silvia Cirello, standing on top of a
      plastic chair to get a better view.

      A group of priests and nuns shouted, "Papa! Papa!

      It was only the third time in a century that a pope
      had been chosen on the second day of a conclave.

      Three earlier votes by the 115 red-robed cardinals
      from 52 countries eligible to join the conclave were

      Ratzinger had to win a two-thirds majority or at least
      77 votes to become pope.

      Most Vatican experts had expected the new pope to
      emerge on Wednesday or Thursday.

      The 20th century's eight conclaves lasted from two to
      five days, with the average just over three days.

      Earlier on Tuesday both experts and bookmakers had
      said Ratzinger's candidacy was weakening.


      As John Paul's doctrinal overseer, Ratzinger
      disciplined Latin American "liberation theology"
      theologians, denounced homosexuality and gay marriage
      and pressured Asian priests who saw non-Christian
      religions as part of God's plan for humanity.

      In a document in 2000, he branded other Christian
      churches as deficient -- shocking Anglicans, Lutherans
      and other Protestants in ecumenical dialogue with Rome
      for years.

      Ratzinger was the oldest cardinal to be named pope
      since Clement XII, who was also 78 when he became pope
      in 1730. He is the first German pope since Victor II

      Before the conclave door shut on Monday, Ratzinger
      made a final appeal to his fellow electors to protect
      traditional teachings and to shun the "dictatorship of

      Ratzinger made no mention of the challenges that other
      cardinals and ordinary Catholics say should top the
      agenda such as poverty, Islam, science, sexual
      morality and Church reform.

      Born in Bavaria on April 16, 1927, Ratzinger was a
      leading theology professor and then archbishop of
      Munich before taking over the Congregation for the
      Doctrine of the Faith in 1981.

      (Additional reporting by Clara Ferreira-Marques, Phil
      Stewart and Jane Barrett in Vatican City)
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