Controversial German Cardinal Elected Pope
- 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
"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
NEW POPE DOMINATED VATICAN AFTER JOHN PAUL'S DEATH
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
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.
NEW POPE TOUGH DISCIPLINARIAN
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
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)