- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 20, 2005

German favorite

selects the name

Benedict XVI

VATICAN CITY — German-born Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope to succeed John Paul II yesterday, taking the name Benedict XVI to conclude one of the shortest and most secretive conclaves in recent history.

“After the great Pope John Paul II, the cardinals have elected me as a simple, humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord,” the new pontiff, beaming broadly, told a crowd of pilgrims, clerics, nuns and ordinary Romans packed into St. Peter’s Square.

“I entrust myself to your prayers,” he said, speaking in Italian, as the throng chanted, “Papa! Papa! Papa!” and waved umbrellas and flags.

The 78-year-old conservative theologian had been a front-runner for election, telling supporters that he was willing to be a candidate to lead the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics on condition that the necessary two-thirds majority of the 115 voting cardinals at the conclave select him with a convincingly strong mandate, Vatican sources said.

President Bush sent congratulations to the new pope.

“Laura and I offer our congratulations to Pope Benedict XVI,” Mr. Bush said on behalf of himself and his wife. “He’s a man of great wisdom and knowledge. He’s a man who serves the Lord.”

“We remember well his sermon at the pope’s funeral in Rome, how his words touched our hearts and the hearts of millions. We join with our fellow citizens and millions around the world who pray for continued strength and wisdom as His Holiness leads the Catholic Church.”

Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of the Archdiocese of Washington, in Rome for the conclave, hailed the choice of the German cardinal.

“With Catholics throughout the world, we rejoice at the election of Pope Benedict XVI,” Cardinal McCarrick said.

“We thank God for a brilliant theologian and a man who not only understands the theology but lives and loves it,” he said.

Cardinal Ratzinger’s choice was sure to be controversial because of his unbending orthodoxy on fundamental doctrinal issues as well as his World War II record as a member — although mandatory and unenthusiastic — of the Hitler Youth.

His supporters noted that he was only 14 at the time, that he came from an anti-Nazi family and that he subsequently deserted after being called up to serve with an anti-aircraft unit and ended the war in an American camp for prisoners of war.

By 3 p.m. yesterday in Rome, word filtered out to members of the Vatican press corps from a senior Polish Church source that Cardinal Ratzinger’s election to St. Peter’s throne was secured and would be announced by late afternoon.

Barely 24 hours after balloting began among the 115 “princes of the Church,” at 5:50 p.m. Rome time, smoke billowed out of the chimney of the frescoed Sistine Chapel, indicating another vote had been taken after three ballots Monday night and yesterday morning failed to produce a pontiff.

At first there was confusion in St. Peter’s Square because the smoke appeared to be black, meaning they had failed to elect a pope. The chimney soon yielded whiter than white smoke, as special chemicals were added to the blaze in the steel stove in the chapel.

About 25 minutes after the first smoke signal, the bells of St. Peter’s Basilica rang out the confirmation that the Church’s 265th pope had been elected.

A short time later, the traditional Latin words “habemus papam” (“We have a pope”) were announced to Catholics around the world from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica by Cardinal Jorge Arturo Medina Estevez of Chile, the cardinals’ pro-deacon.

Although rich in traditional pomp and ritual, the first conclave of the millennium was unusual in that the favorite candidate was able to give what was interpreted widely as a campaign speech in St. Peter’s Basilica during the special Mass on Monday morning that preceded the voting.

As dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Ratzinger was able to deliver the homily during the solemn service, pledging to remain true to the conservatism of the Polish pope who died April 2 and ensure continuity in a way that appealed to the princes of the Church, all but three of whom were named by John Paul.

Wooing his electors, Cardinal Ratzinger said in the homily that in recent decades, the “small boat of Christian thought” had been rocked by waves of hostile ideology “from one extreme to another, Marxism to liberalism, collectivism to radical individualism, atheism to vague religious mysticism.”

He attacked the “dictatorship of relativism” — the assumption that one set of values is as valid as another — and said that “an adult faith is not one which follows the tides of trends or the latest novelties.”

One liberal Vatican watcher went so far as to level the charge that “the conclave was cooked from start to finish,” because of the conflict of interest posed by the dean of cardinals also being the favorite, noting that Cardinal Ratzinger also had instigated a rigid ban on cardinals giving interviews to the media on the fringes of pre-conclave meetings after John Paul died April 2, meaning that potential rivals were denied a platform.

The cardinal is the oldest to be named pope since Clement XII, who was also 78 when he was chosen in 1730. He is the first German pope since Victor II who reigned from 1055 to 1057. He is the sixteenth pope to take the name Benedict and like many other popes, is not a member of a religious order.

The Vatican chief spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, said the new pontiff, who began his reign as pope upon saying, “I accept,” will be inaugurated at a Mass in St. Peter’s on Sunday.

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