Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Vatican City

Conclave Rapidly Elects Dean Of Cardinals As Pope

By JOHN THAVIS and CINDY WOODEN, CNS | Published April 21, 2005

German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the 78-year-old guardian of the church’s doctrine for the last 24 years, was elected the 265th pope and took the name Benedict XVI.

Appearing at the central window of St. Peter’s Basilica April 19, the newly elected pope smiled as he was greeted by a cheering, flag-waving crowd of nearly 100,000 people.

“After the great John Paul II, the cardinals elected me, a simple, humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord,” Pope Benedict said, in a brief talk broadcast around the world.

“I am consoled by the fact that the Lord can work and act even through insufficient instruments, and I especially entrust myself to your prayers,” he said.

“In the joy of the risen Lord, and trusting in his permanent help, we go forward. The Lord will help us, and Mary his most holy mother is on our side. Thank you,” he said.

Then Pope Benedict gave his blessing to the city of Rome and to the world. He stood and listened to the endless applause that followed, smiling and raising his hands above his head.

Among the few cardinals who joined him on the central balcony was U.S. Cardinal William W. Baum, the only voting cardinal besides the new pope to have participated in a previous conclave. From the side balconies of the basilica facade, other cardinals appeared, smiling and waving to the crowd.

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls announced that the solemn Mass for the new pope’s installation would take place April 24. He also said Pope Benedict would dine with the cardinals at their Vatican residence the evening of his election, stay at the residence that night and celebrate Mass with them the next morning in the Sistine Chapel.

Pope Benedict is the first German pope since Pope Victor II, who reigned from 1055-1057. It was the second conclave in a row to elect a non-Italian pope, after Italians had held the papacy for more than 450 years.

The new pope was chosen by at least a two-thirds majority of 115 cardinals from 52 countries, who cast their ballots in secret in the Sistine Chapel.

The election came on the second day of the voting, presumably on the fourth ballot. It was a surprisingly quick conclusion of a conclave that began with many potential candidates and no clear favorite.

The day before, Cardinal Ratzinger had opened the conclave with a stern warning about moral relativism and ideological currents that had buffeted the church in recent decades.

“The small boat of thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves—thrown from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism,” he said.

“Every day new sects are created and what St. Paul says about human trickery comes true, with cunning which tries to draw people into error,” he said. Having a clear faith today is often labeled “fundamentalism,” he said.

As the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith since 1981, Pope Benedict was on the front lines of numerous theological and pastoral controversies. He was described by Vatican officials who worked with him as a kind and prayerful theologian and a gentler man than the one often portrayed in the media as an inquisitor.

Pope Benedict’s election was announced in Latin to a waiting world from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica. A massive crowd of young and old filled St. Peter’s Square and welcomed the news with cheers and waves of applause.

White smoke poured from the Sistine Chapel chimney at 5:49 p.m. signaling that the cardinals had chosen a successor to Pope John Paul II. At 6:04 p.m., the bells of St. Peter’s Basilica began pealing continuously to confirm the election.

At 6:40 p.m., Chilean Cardinal Jorge Medina Estevez, the senior cardinal in the order of deacons, appeared at the basilica balcony and intoned to the crowd in Latin: “Dear brothers and sisters, I announce to you a great joy. We have a pope.”

He continued: “The most eminent and reverend lordship, Lord Joseph Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church Ratzinger.”

The crowd in the square burst into applause. Some jumped for joy, some knelt to pray and some simply stood and watched.

During their pre-conclave meetings, journalists tracked Cardinal Ratzinger’s rising status among cardinal-electors, but most sources doubted he would obtain the 77 votes needed to win. He was seen as divisive by some in the church, and many thought the cardinals would choose someone with more pastoral experience.

In the end, the cardinals turned to a man who offered doctrinal firmness, a sharp intellect and a clear vision of the threats facing the church and the faith.

In the days before and after the pope’s death, he emphasized his concerns about the urgent challenges facing the church.

In meditations written for the Way of the Cross at the Rome Colosseum on Good Friday, March 25, he said too many Catholics continue to scorn and scourge Jesus in his church.

“Christ suffers in his own church,” he said. He described “the falling of many Christians away from Christ and into a godless secularism” but also the fall of those Catholics who abuse the sacraments or their positions in the church.

“How much filth there is in the church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to him,” he wrote. He said the church often seems like “a boat about to sink, a boat taking in water on every side.”

“The soiled garments and face of your church throw us into confusion. Yet it is we ourselves who have soiled them! It is we who betray you time and time again,” he wrote.

“Have mercy on your church,” he prayed. “When we fall, we drag you down to earth, and Satan laughs, for he hopes that you will not be able to rise from that fall; he hopes that being dragged down in the fall of your church, you will remain prostrate and overpowered.”

At Pope John Paul’s funeral, Cardinal Ratzinger spoke movingly of the late pontiff, telling a crowd of several hundred thousand: “We can be sure that our beloved pope is standing today at the window of the Father’s house, that he sees us and blesses us.”