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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

What Kind of Man is Pope Benedict XVI?

The mainstream North American and European media has never been friendly toward either the Catholic Church or to the man they hold up as the archetypal defender of Catholic conservatism. Joseph Ratzinger was the favorite target of dissident Catholics, liberal theologians, feminist 'nuns,' leftist media sources and anyone with a grudge against the Catholic Church. In his 24 years as Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith "rigid archconservative" was the least of the insults heaped on the new Pope. In the weeks leading up to the conclave, with the odds-makers predicting an early Ratzinger win, media managed to sink to previously unimagined lows with laboured implications that he had been a Nazi, or at least a sympathizer with the Hitler Youth.

Even as the election was being announced, the reaction from 'expert' commentators manning television and radio stations ranged from reserved to near-hysterical wailing. His simple adherence to Catholic doctrine has been enough to elicit warnings of 'division' and even 'coming civil war' within the Catholic Church at his election. None of this is of any concern to the people of his hometown in Bavaria, however, where an Octoberfest-style celebration was put on by the town fathers.

Students at St. Michael's seminary in Traunstein where the pope studied as a teenager cheered him when he appeared on the balcony at the Vatican. In Traunstein the media-generated opinion is less important than the warmth of the man whom they know personally. Pope Benedict is a frequent visitor to this small Bavarian town and stays in the seminary with his brother, who is also a priest.

"Only someone who knows tradition is able to shape the future," said the Rev. Thomas Frauenlob, who heads the seminary in Traunstein.

Pope Benedict's personal generosity is well remembered at St. Michael's. In 2003, the seminary was unable to have a bishop available for confirmations, one of Catholicism's two initiation rites. Though, according to some US news magazines, he was at the time one of the most powerful and famous men in the world, the seminary knew they could count on their friend. He arrived in time to confirm 14 boys, then stayed to speak personally to each one after the ceremony.

Frauenlob said the insults and accusations pained him. "I find it hurtful to see him described as a hard-liner," he said. "People are too quick to say that, it's not an accurate reflection of his personality."

When he stays with the students he loves to play the grand piano. The Pope told journalist Peter Seewald in 1996 that music was a large part of his life. Growing up near Salzburg, the home of Mozart, he said, "You might say that there Mozart thoroughly penetrated our souls, and his music still touches me deeply because it is so luminous and yet at the same time, so deep."

Music runs in the family. His elder brother Georg is the former director of the renowned Regensburger Domspatzen boys choir. The Pope said of Mozart, "His music is by no means just entertainment; it contains the whole tragedy of human existence."

Born on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter Sunday in the Catholic calendar, April 16, 1927, Joseph was brother to Georg and Maria and son of Maria and Joseph. His home was in a part of Germany known for its Catholicism and for what would now be called 'social conservatism.' Then-Cardinal Ratzinger said of his birth on the vigil of Easter, "on the threshold of Easter, but not yet through the door."

After the rise of the Nazi's, the senior Joseph Ratzinger, a police commissioner, risked much as a public opponent of Nazi ideology which was wholly opposed to his traditional Catholicism.

As a child, Joseph Ratzinger developed a desire to teach at an early age, though he was also once impressed with the work of a local housepainter. He loved to write including poetry, "about things of everyday life, Christmas poems, nature poetry…whenever I learned something I wanted to pass it on too."

While attending the seminary, young Joseph avoided the Hitler Youth as long as possible. But later he was obliged when he reached an age at which membership became compulsory. Pope Benedict told Seewald that a sympathetic professor, himself a member of the party, arranged to have him exempted. It was difficult for him since his family was not wealthy and the government offered tuition assistance to members of the Hitler youth.

From 1943 all the seminarians were conscripted. Ratzinger did various jobs for the military until he came of age to be drafted at 18. He was stationed at first near the Austro-Hungarian border but an officer, whom he describes as "obviously anti-Nazi" arranged to send him to serve near his home. It was to Traunstein that the 18 year-old Joseph Ratzinger returned to his family in May 1945 risking death by deserting from the German army. He wrote in his memoirs that he was terrified of being caught by the SS who shot or hanged deserters on the spot.

When the war was over he spent a short time in a US POW camp after which he returned home, hitchhiking on the back of a milk truck. After the war he resumed his studies for the priesthood.

Joseph and his brother were ordained on the same day in 1951 in Freising where he spent several years as a lecturer in dogmatic and fundamental theology. In the 1960's he became dismayed by the Marxist tone of much of the conversation at the Catholic universities in which he taught.

He attended the Second Vatican Council as a peritus, or theological advisor, to Joseph Cardinal Frings of Cologne. His dedication to traditional Catholicism was confirmed in 1966, when he took the chair of dogmatic theology at the University of Tubingen where he taught with Hans Kung.

In 1977 he was appointed the Cardinal Archbishop of Munich. He was appointed the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith by John Paul II in 1981 which office he resigned on April 2, 2005, the day after Pope John Paul's death.

Ratzinger has said he would like to retire to a Bavarian village and dedicate himself to writing books, but more recently, he told friends he was ready to "accept any charge God placed on him."

This morning pro-life Catholics around the world were cheering when Pope Benedict XVI blessed the world. As Cardinal Ratzinger, his steadfast defence of Catholic ethics and moral doctrine has proved an incomparable boon to pro-life work around the world.
His brother Georg once said of the future Pope, "He is not aggressive at all, but when it's necessary to fight, he does his part as a matter of conscience."

Benedict replied via Seewald, "I try to be. I'm not bold enough to claim that I am. But it does seem to me very important not to put seeking approval or accommodating the feelings of the group above the truth."

The text of his address was published in the French Catholic newspaper La Croix.
ROME, April 19, 2005 (LifeSiteNews.com)

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, a German, Is Pope Benedict XVI

The new pope is known for his firm stand on doctrinal orthodoxy. Celebrating a pre-conclave Mass on Monday in his capacity as dean of the College of Cardinals, he denounced "a dictatorship of relativism" and praised Catholics who are labeled fundamentalists for "having a clear faith based on the creed of the Church."

"Simple and humble worker" had served as head of the Vatican office on church doctrine.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected the first German pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church in almost five centuries on Tuesday. Describing himself as "a simple and humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord," he chose to be called Benedict XVI.

Ratzinger, who turned 78 on Saturday, was one of Pope John Paul II's closest aides. A conservative who served as head of the Vatican office that enforces church doctrine, he was dubbed "the great inquisitor" by his critics.

The German prelate had been considered the front-runner to succeed the Polish-born John Paul, who died on April 2. Ratzinger's 114 fellow cardinal-electors chose him on their fourth ballot, less than 24 hours after they opened their conclave. At least 77 votes, a two-thirds majority, were required for election.

A slight, white-haired figure wearing a short red cape and wine and gold stole over his white soutane, the new pope stepped smiling through red velvet curtains onto the main balcony of St. Peter's Basilica shortly before 7 p.m.

He threw his arms wide and clasped his hands above his head. "Dear brothers and sisters," Ratzinger said, "after the great Pope John Paul II, the signor cardinals have elected me, a simple and humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord."

Tens of thousands of Romans and pilgrims had gathered in St. Peter's Square despite a light rain. The crowd warmly applauded the new pope's greeting, but clapped and cheered longer and louder when he evoked John Paul.

"The fact that the Lord works and acts even with insufficient instruments consoles me and above all I trust in your prayers," Ratzinger said. "We go forward in the joy of the risen Lord, trusting in his permanent aid. The Lord will help us and Mary, his most holy mother, will be at our side."

The new leader of the world's more than 1 billion Catholics then gave his first "urbi et orbi" blessing to the people of Rome and the world. Popes traditional deliver the blessing at Christmas and Easter.

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said that Benedict returned to the Domus Santa Marta, where he and the other 114 cardinals attending the conclave had been sequestered since Sunday night. He dined with them and spent the night there instead of moving immediately into the papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace.

On Wednesday morning, he celebrated Mass in Latin with the cardinals in the Sistine Chapel where they voted to elect him pontiff. The altar in the chapel stands in front of Michelangelo's painting of "The Last Judgment." Navarro-Valls said Benedict's "solemn inauguration as pontiff" will be celebrated at St. Peter's on Sunday, April 24.

Ratzinger, a native of Bavaria, is the 265th pope in the history of the Roman Catholic and the eighth German. The last German pope was Adrian VI, who reigned from 1522 to 1523 and was also the last non-Italian pontiff until John Paul II was elected in 1978.

The last pope to hold the name of Benedict was an Italian whose reign from 1914 to 1922 encompassed World War I. Church historians have called him one of the finest and least appreciated pontiffs.

The new pope is known for his firm stand on doctrinal orthodoxy. Celebrating a pre-conclave Mass on Monday in his capacity as dean of the College of Cardinals, he denounced "a dictatorship of relativism" and praised Catholics who are labeled fundamentalists for "having a clear faith based on the creed of the Church."

In the controversial 2000 "Declaration Dominus Iesus," which he issued in September 2000 as prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger expressed "sincere respect" for other religions. But he attacked "religious relativism which leads to the belief that one religion is as good as another."

"If it is true that the followers of other religions can receive divine grace, it is also certain that objectively speaking they are in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the church, have the fullness of the means of salvation," the document said. It called non-Catholic Christian bodies "defective."

The cardinal-electors intended the traditional white smoke from burning ballots to signal Ratzinger's election. But when the first of three puffs of smoke issued from a copper chimney atop the Sistine Chapel at 5:50 p.m. it appeared to be light gray, and the crowd in St. Peter's Square was uncertain what it meant.

Fifteen minutes later the great bell of St. Peter's Basilica began tolling and all the church bells in Rome chimed in, leaving no doubt that a pope had been elected.

Under Vatican procedure, there was a pause of about 50 minutes before the name of the new cardinal was announced. This was to allow time for him to formally accept his election and have it certified, choose his papal name, change into one of the three sets of vestments prepared in advance to fit a small, medium or large pope, and receive "an act of homage and obedience" from the cardinals.

Cardinal Jorge Medina Estevez of Chile, who holds the title of senior cardinal-deacon in the College of Cardinals, then appeared on the main balcony of St. Peter's Square to declare in Latin, "Annuntio vobis gaudium magnun: habemus papam!"

In translation, his words were, "I announce to you with great joy: We have a pope, the most eminent and most reverend lord, Lord Joseph Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church Ratzinger." Continuing in Latin, the cardinal said the new pope had taken the name Benedict XVI."

Scores of cardinals stood crowded together at windows and balconies of the Hall of Benedictions to watch the proceedings. The cardinals opened their conclave late Monday in the Sistine Chapel with Swiss Guards stationed outside the doors. They took an oath to preserve the secrecy of everything to do with the election.

The ballots were burned in a cast iron stove that has served that purpose since the election of Pope Pius XII in 1939. Chemicals were added to the paper to color the smoke black after inconclusive rounds and wet straw to make it white.

Because of past confusion over smoke that looked more gray than black or white, the Vatican installed an electronic device intended to intensify the color and decided to ring the basilica bell as well on the election.

Desser Allen, a sixth-grade teacher from Boston, was in the crowd waiting for the smoke. "I came to see a lot of history that I've been teaching about. When I get home I can tell my students that I saw it live," she said.

Allen said that she is not Catholic but admired John Paul "because he went beyond the Catholic Church. The next pope shouldn't try to be John Paul again, but he should have moral values and be there for everyone, not just Catholics," she said.

A group of students from Christendom College in Fort Royal, Va., who are spending three months studying in Rome, stood behind a banner announcing the name of the small Catholic school and an American flag.

Joan Watson, a junior, said they camped in a street near the Vatican the night before John Paul's funeral to be sure of getting into St. Peter's Square. "I have faith that the next pope will continue the work of John Paul II and continue the teaching of the church as it has been for 2,000 years," she said.

Peggy Polk, RNS | posted 04/20/2005 09:30 a.m.
Copyright © 2005 Christianity Today.

Benedict XVI: Faithful to the Word of GOD

The New Pope on the Issues

On Secularism

"We have moved from a Christian culture to aggressive and sometimes intolerant secularism," Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said in November 2004 in an interview with the daily La Repubblica. "A society from which God is completely absent self-destructs. We saw that in the major totalitarian regimes of last century."

On Other Religions

He has repeatedly condemned "religious pluralism" and relativism, the idea that other religions can hold the way to salvation, and he has been instrumental in blocking the advance of priests who support such views. In 2000 the Vatican document "Dominus Jesus," in which Cardinal Ratzinger was the driving voice, called for a new Catholic evangelism and described other faiths as lesser searches for the truth.

"This truth of faith does not lessen the sincere respect which the Church has for the religions of the world," the document said, "but at the same time, it rules out, in a radical way, that mentality of indifferentism characterized by a religious relativism which leads to the belief that 'one religion is as good as another.' "

The Sex Abuse Scandal

The new pope has often denounced immorality within the church. He wrote the meditations read aloud during the Good Friday procession this year that condemned "filth" in the church. He has been scathing, however, about news coverage of the scandal. In December 2002, Zenit News Services quoted him as saying that fewer than 1 percent of priests were abusers and that American news coverage was a campaign against the church.

"One comes to the conclusion that it is intentional, manipulated, that there is a desire to discredit the church," he said.

Women in the Church

Cardinal Ratzinger wrote the church statement in August 2004 that repeated the prohibition against women as priests and criticized feminism as ignoring biological differences. It also called on governments to "manage conditions so that women do not need to neglect their families if they want to pursue a job."

Sexuality and Marriage

He has been a leading voice in the church for enforcing traditional doctrine on homosexuality, extramarital sex and artificial birth control, writing a letter to American bishops in 1988, for example, criticizing their acceptance of condoms to stop the spread of AIDS, saying the American view supported "the classical principle of tolerance of the lesser evil."

He has condemned efforts to legalize same-sex marriage as "destructive for the family and for society" and as a dangerous separation of sexuality and fertility. A church statement in July 2003 in which he was listed as principal author said: "There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage and family. Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law."

Abortion and Euthanasia

Benedict has insistently spoken out against abortion, euthanasia, stem-cell research and cloning. In his book "God and the World," published in October 2000, he painted a grim picture of the results of genetic research, writing, "There is a last boundary that we cannot cross without becoming the destroyers of creation itself."

In July 2004, the magazine L'Espresso released part of an unissued memorandum to American bishops in which he gave guidelines for denying Communion to politicians who supported abortion rights.

Published: April 20, 2005
New York Times

German Cardinal Is Chosen as Pope

Under the crucifix that was carried before him, Pope Benedict XVI, "a simple, humble worker in the Lord's vineyard," blessed pilgrims from his balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square.

VATICAN CITY, April 19 - Roman Catholic cardinals reached to the church's conservative wing on Tuesday and chose as the 265th pope Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, a seasoned and hard-line German theologian who served as John Paul II's defender of the faith.

At 5:50 p.m. in Rome, wispy white smoke puffed from the chimney above the Sistine Chapel where the cardinals were meeting, signaling that the new pope had been chosen, only a day after the secret conclave began. His name was not announced until nearly an hour later, after the great bell at St. Peter's tolled, and the scarlet curtain over the basilica's central balcony parted and a cardinal stepped out to announce in Latin, "Habemus papam!"

"Dear brothers and sisters," Cardinal Ratzinger, 78, said, speaking Italian in a clear voice, spreading his arms wide over the crowd from the balcony. "After the great Pope John Paul II, the cardinals have elected me, a simple, humble worker in the Lord's vineyard." He announced his name as Benedict XVI.

The unusually brief conclave seemed to suggest that Cardinal Ratzinger was a popular choice inside the college of 115 cardinals who elected him as a man who shared - if at times went beyond - John Paul's conservative theology and seemed ready to take over the job after serving beside him for more than two decades.

It was not clear, however, how popular a choice he was on St. Peter's Square. The applause for the new pope, while genuine and sustained among many, tapered off decisively in large pockets, which some assembled there said reflected their reservations about his doctrinal rigidity and whether, under Benedict XVI, an already polarized church will now find less to bind it together.

"I kind of do think he will try to unite Catholics," said Linda Nguyen, 20, an American student studying in Rome who had wrapped six rosaries around her hands. "But he might scare people away."

Vincenzo Jammace, a teacher from Rome, stood up on a plastic chair below the balcony and intoned, "This is the gravest error!"

Pope Benedict's well-known stands include the assertion that Catholicism is "true" and other religions are "deficient"; that the modern, secular world, especially in Europe, is spiritually weak; and that Catholicism is in competition with Islam. He has also strongly opposed homosexuality, women as priests and stem cell research.

His many supporters said they believed that the rule of Benedict XVI - a scholar who reportedly speaks 10 languages, including excellent English - would be clear and uncompromising about what it means to be a Roman Catholic.

"It would be more popular to be more liberal, but it's not the best way for the church," said Martin Sturm, 20, a student from Germany. "The church must tell the truth, even if it is not what the people want to hear. And he will tell the truth."

While Pope Benedict's views are upsetting to many Catholics in Europe and among liberal Americans, they are likely to find a receptive audience among the young and conservative Catholics whom John Paul II energized. His conservatism on moral issues may also play well in developing countries, where the church is growing rapidly, but where issues of poverty and social justice are also important. It is unclear how much Cardinal Ratzinger, a man with limited pastoral experience, and that spent in rich Europe, will speak to those concerns.

Born on April 16, 1927, in Marktl am Inn, in Bavaria, he was the son of a police officer. He was ordained in 1951, at age 24. He began his career as a liberal academic and theological adviser to at the Second Vatican Council, supporting many efforts to make the church more open.

But he moved theologically and politically to the right. Pope Paul VI appointed him bishop of Munich in 1977 and appointed him cardinal in just three months. Taking the chief doctrinal job in 1981, he moved with vigor to squash liberation theology in Latin America, cracked down on liberal theologians and in 2000 wrote the contentious Vatican document "Dominus Jesus," asserting the truth of the Catholic belief over others.

Despite views his opponents consider harsh, he is said to be shy and charming in private, a deeply spiritual and meditative man who lives simply. "He's very delicate, refined, respectful," Cardinal Fiorenzo Angelini, a retired top Vatican official who had worked closely with Cardinal Ratzinger, said in an interview on Tuesday night. "He's very approachable. He's open to everyone."

With their choice, cardinals from 52 countries definitively answered several questions about the direction of the Roman Catholic Church at the start of its third millennium.

They did not reach outside Europe, perhaps to Latin America, as many Vatican watchers expected, to reflect the growth of the church there and in Asia and Africa, prompting some disappointed reactions from Latin America on Tuesday. They did not choose a candidate with long experience as a pastor, but an academic and Vatican insider. They did not return the job to Italy, which had held the papacy for 455 years before a Pole, Karol Wojtyla, was elected John Paul II in 1978.

They also did not chose a man as young as John Paul II, who was only 58 when elected. Cardinal Ratzinger turned 78 last Saturday, the oldest pope chosen since Clement XII in 1730. This has led to some speculation that cardinals chose him as a trusted, transitional figure.

John Paul was virtually unknown when he was selected, but Cardinal Ratzinger's record is long and articulate in a prolific academic career, followed by a contentious tenure as John Paul's doctrinal watchdog. Most cardinals know him well from visits to Rome, and he won admiration among many colleagues for his crucial role in administering the church in the last stages of John Paul's illness.

In many ways, the cardinals picked John Paul's theological twin but his opposite in presence and personality. Where John Paul was charismatic and tended to soften his rigid stands with human warmth, Cardinal Ratzinger is bland in public and pulls few punches about his beliefs.

President Bush on Tuesday recalled the cardinal's homily at John Paul's funeral, saying, "His words touched our hearts and the hearts of millions." Speaking in Washington, he called Benedict a "man of great wisdom and knowledge."

Only on Monday, as the cardinals attended a Mass before locking themselves inside the Sistine Chapel to select a new pope, Cardinal Ratzinger took a moment as dean of the college of cardinals and celebrant of the Mass to repeat his fears about threats to the faith. In retrospect, some observers said, he was laying out what may be the focus of his papacy.

"Having a clear faith, based on the creed of the church, is often labeled today as fundamentalism," he said at the Mass. "Whereas relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and 'swept along by every wind of teaching,' looks like the only attitude acceptable to today's standards."

Cardinal Ratzinger has often criticized religious relativism, the belief - mistaken, he says - that all beliefs are equally true.

"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 added.

In his brief, first address as Benedict XVI on Tuesday from the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica, he did not speak of theology or of a specific direction for the church.

"I am comforted by the fact that the Lord knows how to work and act even with insufficient instruments," he said. "And above all, I entrust myself to your prayers."

Benedict XVI had dinner on Tuesday night with the other cardinals at the Santa Marta residence, built by John Paul II to provide more comfortable lodgings for cardinals while locked down in the conclave, said Joaquín Navarro-Valls, the chief Vatican spokesman.

He is to be installed in a Mass at St. Peter's Basilica on Sunday.

The conclave that selected him on the fourth ballot was among the shortest of the last century - the shortest, the election of Pius XII in 1939, took only three - and the speed caught many experts by surprise. Cardinal Ratzinger has been a divisive figure within the church, and reports before the conclave spoke almost unanimously about blocs of more progressive cardinals lining up against him.

In theory, cardinals are not allowed to discuss the inner workings of the conclave, but in reality, details seep out later. Several cardinals are expected to give interviews or news conferences on Wednesday, and may provide some limited glimpses in the dynamic that picked Cardinal Ratzinger - and with such speed.

But already, there was at least one voice of careful reservation. Cardinal Godfried Danneels of Belgium, one of the most liberal cardinals, who has been critical of Cardinal Ratzinger, skipped the dinner specifically to hold a news conference.

He would not disclose his own vote and did not criticize Cardinal Ratzinger directly. But he was not effusive in his praise, either, saying that he had "a certain hope" based on the choice of the name Benedict. Benedict XV, who appealed for peace during World War I, "was a man of peace and reconciliation," Cardinal Danneels said.

But, he said, "We have to see what's in a name."

He also warned that being the spiritual leader of one billion Roman Catholics was different from parsing out theological matters.

"When you are a pope, you have to be the pastor of every one and everything which happens in the church," he said. "You are not specialized."

But Cardinal Edward M. Egan, archbishop of New York, said Tuesday that the process involved a "certain amount of tension and concern" but that the conclave made the right choice.

"I believe that the Lord has something to do with it," Cardinal Egan said at a news conference here. "This man is going to do a splendid job."

Asked if Cardinal Ratzinger would adopt a harsher tone as pope, Cardinal Egan asked a reporter: "Why don't you and I get together in one year and we'll talk about it. I have every hope that the tone is going to be the one of Jesus Christ."

Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters
Elisabetta Povoledo of The International Herald Tribune and Jason Horowitz contributed reporting for this article.

New York Times