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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ratzinger of Germany Is Elected Pope

APPope Benedict XVI waving to the crowd from a balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on Tuesday evening. He called himself "a simple, humble worker."
VATICAN CITY -- Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, the Roman Catholic Church's leading hard-liner, was elected the new pope on Tuesday evening in the first conclave of the new millennium by cardinals intent on sticking to conservative policy.

He chose the name Pope Benedict XVI and called himself "a simple, humble worker."

Ratzinger emerged onto the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica, where he waved to a wildly cheering crowd of tens of thousands and gave his first blessing as pope. Other cardinals clad in their crimson robes came out on other balconies to watch him.

Pilgrims chanted "Benedict! Benedict!" as the church's 265th pontiff appeared after one of the fastest papal conclaves of the past century.

"Dear brothers and sisters, after the great Pope John Paul II, the cardinals have elected me -- a simple, humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord," he said after being introduced by Chilean Cardinal Jorge Arturo Medina Estivez.

"The fact that the Lord can work and act even with insufficient means consoles me, and above all I entrust myself to your prayers," he said in a brief speech. "I entrust myself to your prayers."

Ratzinger, the first German pope in centuries, served John Paul since 1981 as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In that position, he has disciplined church dissidents and upheld church policy against attempts by liberals for reforms. He turned 78 on Saturday.

Ratzinger is the first Germanic pope in roughly 1,000 years. There were at least three German popes in the 11th century.

Benedict, which comes from the Latin for "blessing," is one of a number of papal names of holy origin such as Clement ("mercy"), Innocent ("hopeful" as well as "innocent") and Pius ("pious"). The last Benedict, Benedict XV, served during World War I and was credited with settling animosity between traditionalists and modernists, and dreamed of reunion with Orthodox Christians.

The new pope had gone into the conclave with the most buzz among two dozen leading candidates. He had impressed many faithful with his stirring homily at the funeral of John Paul, who died April 2 at age 84.

White smoke poured from the Sistine Chapel and bells tolled earlier to announce the conclave had produced a pope. Flag-waving pilgrims in St. Peter's Square chanted: "Viva il Papa!" or "Long live the pope!"

The bells rang after a confusing smoke signal that Vatican Radio initially suggested was black but then declared was too difficult to call. White smoke is used to announce to the world a pope's election.

It was one of the fastest elections in the past century: Pope Pius XII was elected in 1939 in three ballots on one day, while Pope John Paul I was elected in 1978 in four ballots in one day. The new pope was elected after either four or five ballots over two days.

Niels Hendrich, a 40-year-old salesman from Hamburg, Germany, jumped up and down with joy and called his father on a cellphone when the bells started to ring. "Habemus papam!" he shouted into the phone, using the Latin for "We have a pope."

In Traunstein, the German town where Ratzinger studied for the priesthood, a room full of 13-year-old boys at St. Michael's seminary jumped up and down, cheered and clapped as the news was announced.

"It's fantastic that it's Cardinal Ratzinger. I met him when he was here before, and I found him really nice," said Lorenz Gradl, 16, who was confirmed by Ratzinger in 2003.

Cardinals had faced a choice over whether to seek an older, skilled administrator who could serve as a "transitional" pope while the church absorbs John Paul's legacy, or a younger dynamic pastor and communicator -- perhaps from Latin America or elsewhere in the developing world where the church is growing.

While John Paul, a Pole, was elected to challenge the communist system in place in eastern Europe in 1978, the new pontiff faces new issues: the need for dialogue with Islam, the divisions between the wealthy north and the poor south as well as problems within his own church.

Even though John Paul appointed all but two of the men who elected the new pope, it was no guarantee that the new man would necessarily be in his mold. Pope John XXIII was 77 when he was elected pope in 1958 and viewed as a transitional figure, but he called the Second Vatican Council where revolutionized the church from within and opened up its dialogue with non-Catholics.

Reaction to the New Pope



"Today ushers in a new era for the Catholic Church. I'm confident that Pope Benedict XVI is blessed with the same compassion and vision that made Pope John Paul II one of the world's most revered and respected voices."
Bill Frist
U.S. Senate majority leader


"The world responded in grief and wonder to the passing of John Paul II. The election of his successor became the concern of very many people throughout the world. You embody their hopes for greater unity among peoples and a more just and caring human family. Your guidance and leadership amid the complexities of modern life will be crucial."
Mary McAleese
Irish President


"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. It is very clear that he is going to be a pope that is going to take very seriously the problems of the Catholic Church in Europe."
Lawrence Cunningham
theology professor
University of Notre Dame, Indiana




"This is an excellent choice. I was a bit afraid, but now I know that the church is in good hands. I think that Ratzinger is closest to John Paul's mission."
Katarzyna Zbiegien, 26
Warsaw lawyer


"Time will tell whether he will be as committed as his predecessor to the improvement of relations with the Jewish people."
Isaac Herzog
Israeli housing minister


"It is a shame they have not given an African candidate a chance. But maybe Ratzinger can address some of our issues here. We can hope."
Stephen Seguya
car importer in Uganda


"When I met him I liked his clarity of expression, his rare intelligence, his extraordinary deep knowledge, his extraordinarily deep faith -- and at the same time he has a way talking to you in a simple language. When you listen to people like that you think you become intelligent yourself as you listen to them."
Stanislas Lalanne
spokesman for French Bishops' Conference, Ratzinger's former student


"It seems that he is too conservative. Hopefully, the Holy Spirit can help him change."
Jurandir Arauj
National Conference of Brazilian Bishops, Afro-Brazilian Section


"We consider the election of Ratzinger a catastrophe. It is very disappointing. ... We can expect no reform from him in the coming years."
Bernd Goehring
German ecumenical group Kirche Von Unten


-- Reuters