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4/19/05-Vatican

New Pope Elected

VATICAN CITY - Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger of Germany has been selected by the Roman Catholic Church as the new pope.

Ratzinger, who took the name Benedict XVI, appeared on the balcony of the Vatican Basilica to greet the people and deliver his first papal blessing.

"Dear brothers and sisters, after our great pope, John Paul II, the cardinals have elected me, a simple, humble worker in God's vineyard," according to a translation of remarks he made in Italian. "I am consoled by the fact that the Lord knows how to work and how to act, even with insufficient tools, and I especially trust in your prayers.

"In the joy of the resurrected Lord, trustful of his permanent help, we go ahead, sure that God will help. And Mary, his most beloved mother, stands on our side."

He then delivered his first Urbi at Orbi papal blessing, after which the crowd in St. Peter's Square chanted, "Viva il Papa," or "Long live the Pope."

In Ratzinger's hometown of Traunnstein, Germany, seminary students happily reacted to the news.

 

Powerful figure in Vatican

Once the archbishop of Munich, Germany, and for many years prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, Ratzinger, 78, was one of the most powerful men in the Vatican and is widely acknowledged as a leading theologian.

Ratzinger, who turned 78 on Saturday, served for 20 years as John Paul II's chief theological adviser.

As a young priest he was on the progressive side of theological debates but shifted to the right after the student revolutions of 1968.

In the Vatican, he has been the driving force behind crackdowns on liberation theology, religious pluralism, challenges to traditional moral teachings on issues such as homosexuality, and dissent on such issues as women's ordination.

The dean of the College of Cardinals since November 2002, he was elevated to cardinal by Pope Paul VI in June 1977.

Cardinal Jorge Arturo Medina Estevez announced Benedict XVI's election in the traditional Latin, but he prefaced it by saying the words "brothers and sisters" in several languages, an introduction that is likely a bow to the universality of the Roman Catholic Church and its 1.1 billion members.

Opposed to relativism

There had been a great deal of speculation about who would be chosen to succeed John Paul II, who died April 2 at age 84.

John Paul was widely credited with extending the reach of the papacy. He spoke more than a dozen languages and set an unprecedented pattern of pastoral travel, drawing huge crowds all over the world.

He was also strictly traditional on issues of sexuality and the role of women in the church, which won him support among some Catholics but alienated others. Similar disagreement exists over the next pontiff's stances on issues such as birth control, stem cell research and the ordination of female priests.

Benedict XVI, however, has been critical of progressive Catholicism. In a homily delivered at Monday's Eligendo Summo Pontifice Mass before the cardinals began the conclave, he warned against "relativism, which is letting oneself be 'swept along by every wind of teaching.' (It) looks like the only attitude (acceptable) to today's standards. We are moving towards 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."

White smoke, bells

White smoke rising from the Sistine Chapel chimney gave the first indication that the cardinals had chosen a pope.

The crowd clapped and waved flags as the smoke billowed over Vatican City about 5:50 p.m. (11:50 a.m. ET). Suspense built for the next 10 minutes as pilgrims waited for the ringing of bells -- at which point tens of thousands of onlookers let out a roar of jubilation.

Pope John Paul II had decreed that white smoke be accompanied by the ringing of bells, to avoid a repeat of the confusion after his election in 1978.

Chemicals were added to the ballots to turn the smoke white or black.

The conclave of 115 cardinals had voted three times previously -- once Monday night and twice Tuesday morning -- before selecting the new pope.

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