April 22, 2005
POPE BENEDICT XVI: MANY SEE A 'TRANSITIONAL' PAPACY
** Dailies assess Benedict XVI as a "transitional" Pope who will oppose "dilution" of doctrine.
** Critics say the papal election shows the Church is "out of step with the world."
** Developing world, denied one of its own, hopes Benedict XVI will defend the poor and weak.
'A theological pugilist'-- Dailies interpreted the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, John Paul II's "closest associate," as Pope Benedict XVI, as indicating that the new pontiff's "main mission" will be the "consolidation" of his predecessor's legacy. The choice of Ratzinger as Pope "signals stability," declared Austria's centrist Die Presse. The cardinals, agreed the center-left Irish Times, "have chosen continuity over change, doctrinal orthodoxy over renewal, central authority over collegial control." Many writers concluded that the 78-year-old Benedict will be a "transitional" Pope, but France's Catholic La Croix noted that this "transition...will not necessarily be all that smooth, for the new Pope has strong convictions." Other analysts contended that Benedict "will surprise us"--though he is known as a "strict watchdog of the faith," it is "too early to pass judgment" on his reign.
'Ratzinger is no Gorbachev'-- Critics held that Benedict XVI's election "will not create enthusiasm among Catholics...who had hoped for a signal of a new beginning." These writers saw a continuing "struggle for the soul of Catholicism" between "ultraconservatives" adhering to tradition and those seeking "innovation and change." Belgium's independent financial daily De Tijd spoke for many Euro editorialists, calling Benedict's election "bad news for all those who hoped to see a Pope who would give women and laymen their right place in the Church." Instead, said another Belgian outlet: "There will be no new vision" on the role of women in the Church or priests' celibacy. The danger for the Church, warned Canada's leading Globe and Mail, is that "at a time when the Church should be seeking ways to narrow the gulf between traditionalists and modernists," the College of Cardinals has selected "an even more doctrinaire version of John Paul II, without the latter's remarkable charisma."
Must be 'responsive' to poor-- Latin, Asian and African papers argued that Benedict XVI may be identified "as much for who he is not as for who he is"; many "expected a Pope...from the Third World." His election, noted the center-left Philippine Daily Inquirer, "was greeted with relief and even joy" in that predominantly Catholic land, but "viewed with alarm" in the West "where churches are empty." Analysts hoped that despite his conservative reputation, Benedict would extend "his merciful hands to the weaker nations" and "lend his moral authority towards redressing the age-old grievances of the poor and marginalized in this world." African outlets, like Zimbabwe's independent Daily News, referencing the continent's HIV/AIDS epidemic, said the Pope "must be convinced by all the African bishops" that the Church "must re-examine its unhelpful" stance on condoms as a measure to reduce HIV in Africa.
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, email@example.com
EDITOR: Steven Wangsness
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion. Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet. This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 60 reports from 30 countries April 20-21, 2005. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.
BRITAIN: "Theologian Of The Past, Not Pastor For The Future"
The center-left Independent editorialized (4/20): "Pope Benedict may lack the charisma of John Paul but he is just as likely to give his views on politics and, sadly, just as likely to come down on the wrong side of some of the most important issues facing our world. The white smoke that issued from the Vatican chimney signaled a speedy decision--and the continuation of the Vatican's war on the modern world."
"Habemus Papam: The New Pope Needs Our Prayers"
The conservative Daily Telegraph commented (4/20): "Society shares with the Church the furtherance of family values, education, social cohesion, peace and aspirations to human fulfillment, with a rejection of a culture of pornocracy or drugs. Christian rivalries no longer turn the Pope into Antichrist. Pope Benedict's task is daunting, and he asked in his first public words for prayers. He surely has those of Christians and the good wishes of many beyond his flock."
The left-of-center Guardian observed (4/20): "Defenders insist that he moderated some of the last Pope's wilder conservative instincts. He chose as his namesake a Pope who was a World War I pacifist. But this Benedict takes the top job already familiar with the levers of power, as a theological pugilist who is willing to sacrifice popular appeal in the cause of doctrinal purity."
"White Smoke: Benedict XVI Will Face Need For Continuity And Change"
The conservative Times maintained (4/20): "While there are differences of outlook on the role of women in the Church, contraception and attitudes to homosexuality, these social issues are not always those which are of the greatest importance to most Catholics. They...believe that the Church should stand, as John Paul II did, in opposition to both tyranny and soulless materialism. It has fallen to Benedict XVI to seize that torch and take the flame out to the world."
FRANCE: "A Considerable Task"
Michel Schifres wrote in right-of-center Le Figaro (4/20): “We should not speculate too much on the choice made by the Church. It is better to acknowledge that Pope Benedict XVI has before him a considerable task. Not only because he succeeds a Pope who was one of the giants of the century, but also because Pope John Paul II gave the Vatican a global dimension.”
Gerard Dupuy contended in left-of-center Liberation (4/20): “It is as if Pope Benedict XVI succeeded himself.... With this choice, the Roman Catholic Church is not running the risk of being accused of being too original. What other contemporary institution can afford to elect an old man at its helm? Or show such assurance about its unchanging dogma, its immutability, its indifference to changes in the outside world? Nothing in Ratzinger’s past predicts the possibility for change.”
"Force In Transition"
Michel Kubler noted in Catholic La Croix (4/20): “Cardinal Ratzinger most probably got the support of a number of voters who are eager to create a period of transition after the very imposing pontificate of John Paul II. Cardinal Ratzinger had his predecessor’s full trust. He is also the best placed to guarantee that the dogma will be protected against a dilution in modernity. The choice can therefore be interpreted as a choice for a Pope of transition, but a transition that will not necessarily be all that smooth, for the new Pope has strong convictions.”
GERMANY: "The New Pope"
Daniel Deckers judged in a front-page editorial in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (4/20): "The unity of cardinals is the first indication of the path which the conclave has sketched out for the new pope. They want him to unify the church, as far as he is able to do this. The second signal is the man to whom they transferred the burden of this unique office. The 'habemus papam'...announces a man who is to lead the church with a firm and safe hand through the storms of our time.... The cardinals from East and West, North and South elected Ratzinger not despite but because of his firmness in one of the shortest conclaves of church history to new Pope Benedict XVI. The fact that Ratzinger comes from Germany, the country, which in the church's history is also the country of reformation, did not speak against but for him. Ratzinger is the counter-reformation in person--not with fire and sword, but with the power of the spirit. The Church should be one, this is the message of the conclave, to the benefit of 'urbi et orbi.'"
"Continuity, New Beginning"
Matthias Kamann said in a front-page editorial in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (4/20): "The new pope is called Benedict XVI, the name of Europe's patron saint. But many in Europe will not like this election. Is Ratzinger not considered a conservative if not a reactionary? These are clichés. On the one hand, Ratzinger played a decisive role in the opening of the Catholic Church, a policy pursued by his predecessor John Paul II. We may regret that the new pope is again a European, not a representative of the dynamic Christianity in the Third World. But the fact that Ratzinger was elected proves that the Church is serious about the things that were begun under Pope John II. The church is exceeding the spiritual borders of the Occident."
"Troubled Times In Rome"
Roman Arens judged in an editorial in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (4/20): "In Germany, this election will not create enthusiasm among Catholics in particular who had hoped for a signal of a new beginning. It has not yet been forgotten how the German Cardinal Ratzinger criticized the gathering of Protestant and Catholic Church members as 'unsubstantial' and he did not respect the view of German bishops when it came to offering advice to woman who wanted to have an abortion. It is true that Benedict XVI is the first German pope in 500 years, but nationality means nothing for his election. But this election is a signal for Europe. Joseph Ratzinger has called again and again for a memory of Christian roots. He will continue this path."
ITALY: "A Warrior To Defy Modernity"
Managing editor Ezio Mauro commented in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (4/20): “His election was an announced one, since Cardinal Ratzinger was the only one who entered the conclave with a package of votes ready on his name.... In the second foreign pope of the modern era, we immediately noted a different gestural expressiveness and a different language.... Just a few words, the prescribed rhetoric of humility, but no popular rhetoric to charm the media and the faithful. An attitude more in line with that of a Prince of the Church rather than with his predecessor Wojtyla.”
"Believe It, This Man Will Surprise Us"
Oscar Giannino opined in elite, center-left Il Riformista (4/20): “After an enemy of Communism, a deserter from Nazism. After continuity in the name of predecessors, coupled with unprecedented innovation, [there will be] innovation in principle but also a continuation of his predecessor’s firmness and energy.”
"He Will Surprise Us"
Leonardo Zega held in influential, centrist La Stampa (4/20): “Even in the choice of the name there is a signal of that ‘discontinuous continuity’ that may characterize the pontificate of Benedict XVI. Coming after John Paul II ‘The Great,’ he will not be his photocopy.... But he will neither be the determined ‘guardian of the faith’ that some have unfairly depicted as a sort of ‘bogey-man,’ cold and stubborn.... He is rich of humanity, a serious scholar, a sophisticated theologian, but he also knows how to be sweetly convivial.”
RUSSIA: "Ratzinger Is No Gorbachev"
Maksim Yusin said on the front page of reformist Izvestiya (4/20): “The ‘liberals’ gave up. But then, they didn’t seem to resist very much. Otherwise, the vote would have taken longer. Evidently, Benedict XVI’s role will be similar to those of Yuriy Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko in the Soviet Politburo after Leonid Brezhnev’s death. People over 80, particularly those who have never been known for reformist views, are ill-fitted for the role of dynamic reformers. Obviously, this is no time for the Vatican’s own Gorbachev, yet.”
AUSTRIA: "Bridge Builder"
Erwin Zankel opined in mass-circulation Kleine Zeitung (4/20): “Benedict XVI will seize the reins tightly. The former prefect of the congregation of believers knows the world church like no one else. Above all, he takes a firm stance for a church that preserves its identity and does not let itself be guided by fashionable currents, nor does it let itself be overwhelmed by the ‘dictatorship of relativism.’ One may call Ratzinger a conservative, but must not denounce him as a reactionary: the top-flight intellectual and theologian stands for a clear, even painfully sharp profile and against halfhearted compromise. Until now, Ratzinger was known as strict watchdog of the true faith. As Pope, however, he will also have to be a builder of bridges. Perhaps Benedict XVI will surprise many of those who did not cheer last night, but looked at the new Pope with a skeptical eye.”
"Church Opts For Stability"
Editor Michael Fleischhacker observed in centrist Die Presse (4/20): “The choice of Josef Ratzinger as Pope signals stability. Apparently, two-thirds of the cardinals believed that, after the 26-year long pontificate of John Paul II, only a great theologian and insider of the church apparatus, would be in a position to guide the world church through the times of upheaval that it is facing at the beginning of the third millennium. Josef Ratzinger was the closest intimate of his predecessor--like no other he knew the hopes and worries that tied John Paul II to his church. Much as the choice of Ratzinger may be due to the desire for stability and certainty in uncertain times, it is nevertheless clear that this vote will prompt fierce controversy. European and North American Catholics, especially, perceive the new Pope as a symbol of dogmatic rigidity, rigorous clinging to the church’s standards of morality and an iron fortress against all modernization attempts.... The new Pope will be clever enough not to get tangled up in the polarization between conservative and progressive. And perhaps the clear and often negative attributes that have been stuck on this new Pope will give Ratzinger the great chance to dare the unexpected. Reforms, especially in such a inflexible institution as the Roman Catholic Church, can only be effected from inside, which is exactly where Benedict XVI has been for the past decades.”
BELGIUM: "Not Good News"
Foreign affairs writer Carl Pansaerts concluded in independent financial daily De Tijd (4/20): "From the European angle the election of Ratzinger is not good news. It is bad news for all those who hoped to see a Pope who would give women and laymen their right place in the Church. Ratzinger is not goods news either for the many bishops who hoped that the new Pope would decentralize the Church. Benedict XVI is not good news either for the 200 million Catholics in Northwest Europe and North America who had hoped to have a Pope who is more open to the main social and scientific developments at the beginning of the 21st century.... Ratzinger may not be good news either for the Jews, Muslims and other Christian churches. He is also known to be a man who did not really like Pope John Paul II’s ecumenical efforts. The Cardinals seem to have been inspired by the question of where the Church has its largest growth potential and where it is thriving the best. That is not in Northwest Europe or North America. It is in Africa, Asia and Latin America where the conservative and traditional form of Catholicism is very much alive. Who fits that image of the Church better than Joseph Ratzinger?... There are undoubtedly many Catholics who are ‘extremely concerned’ about the Church after the election of Benedict XVI. Many practicing Catholics in Europe and North America probably hope silently that his pontificate will be short. Maybe, that is what the cardinals wanted to make sure."
"Hardliner Becomes Transition Pope"
Deputy chief editor Bart Sturtewagen held in Christian-Democrat De Standaard (4/20): “Those who expected or hoped that a new wind would blow through the Vatican after the final days of John Paul II’s unwavering visions can drop their illusions. It will be more of the same.... Basically, Benedict XVI will be a transition pope. His main mission--as he sees it--will be the consolidation of John Paul II’s legacy.... There will be no new vision on the role of women in the Church--let alone new ideas about the priests’ celibacy. With the same inflexible and intrusive meddling it will speak its mind about what people do in their beds. Scientific developments that raise bio-ethical questions will all be rejected without any reserve by Ratzinger’s Church.”
HUNGARY: "Under A Long Shadow"
Columnist Endre Aczel opined in center-left Nepszabadsag (4/20): “The new Pope will not be as lucky with the world as his predecessor was with the United States. The deep crisis of the Roman Catholic Church there was literally covered up by the fact that the 'religious but predominantly not Catholic right' was able to gather all shades of Christianity against goals unconditionally supported by the Roman Pope, such as abortion, euthanasia and gay marriage.... It is interesting that John Paul II, who with his historical apologies was so inimitably able to assuage the suspicions of other religions against Rome; who, by urging a Christian-Muslim dialogue had recognized even before Bush that Muslim anti-West emotions might flare up into dangerous anti-Christianity--well then, why did the deceased Pope’s sense of reality fail him when it was about his own world [of the Catholic Church]. Can it be denied that this problem needs to be addressed? Hardly. But John Paul II has a very long shadow. For a long time to come, the Roman Church will not get out from under it.”
Liberal-leaning Magyar Hirlap editorialized (4/20): “Many ask the question whether [the new Pope] will be able--and want--to lead the Catholics so that, while trying to protect the Church from the erosion caused by modernization, he will at the same time make it more attractive also for believers who live in our days. Several people in the Vatican predicted that after the quarter of a century of John Paul II's papacy the cardinals would elect an older, provisional leader. One whom they are able to agree on without generating relatively little internal conflict, whose activity will not be diametrically opposed to that of Karol Wojtyla (who, because of that, had perhaps been unacceptably alien in the eyes of many believers), and who with his papacy would contribute to working out a longer term, progressive Church strategy. Ratzinger fully meets the first two criteria, but the third one, for the time being, is rather doubtful.”
IRELAND: "In Footsteps Of John Paul II"
The center-right, populist Irish Independent editorialized (4/20): "He is an intellectual and a lover of the arts who, under the reign of John Paul II, rigidly enforced orthodoxy in doctrine. Those pained by his condemnations of gay marriage and radical feminism would not call him humble. But there is no paradox. In the eternal scheme of things, Benedict XVI does indeed see himself as simple and humble. In that perspective, all human glory is dust. And this man long ago granted us all a rare insight into the thinking of a future Pope. He was once a liberal. Shock at the excesses of the student revolution of 1968 made him a conservative, and the trends that have prevailed ever since have confirmed him in his change of view. He summed up the condition of the Western world before this conclave met, when he said that ‘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.’ The diagnosis is accurate. What is the cure? For Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, heading the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the cure was to uphold traditional doctrine and discipline at all costs, including losing vast numbers of adherents in Europe. It would be absurd to imagine that as Benedict XVI he will propose a different cure. He was John Paul II's closest associate, and his fellow cardinals undoubtedly elected him mainly because they saw the choice as honoring the late Pope's memory and carrying on his legacy."
"Continuity Over Change"
The center-left Irish Times commented (4/20): "In electing Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to be the next Pope the 115 cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church have chosen continuity over change, doctrinal orthodoxy over renewal, central authority over collegial control and a stern and rigorous critic of modernist relativism over those Catholics who believe their church must continuously adapt to the changing signs of the times. Pope Benedict XVI...faces a formidable pastoral challenge to lead a church in which the positions with which he is so clearly associated are widely contested, notwithstanding the enormous surge of faith and loyalty his election will generate among Catholic believers.... Pope Benedict is a long-standing critic of such modernist trends, opening him to the criticism that he wants to reverse progress made at the second Vatican Council in the 1960s to bring his church more into communication and sympathy with the contemporary world.... Although he is 78 it should not be assumed he will be simply a brief transitional figure. He affirms religious continuity with Pope John Paul II. He has the enormous legitimacy from such a decisive and rapid election to face down opponents and critics. He can insist on his authority as he chooses to assert it. Confronting growing secularization and loss of faith in the European heartlands of Catholicism will be clear priorities. But if these issues are tackled by empowering conservative movements and organizations against modernist and reformist Catholics, Pope Benedict will deepen rather than heal divisions in his church.”
POLAND: "Habemus Papam"
Centrist Rzeczpospolita editorialized (4/20): “The first words from the new Pope clearly indicate how he understands his mission. The pontificate of Benedict XVI will be above all the pontificate that continues the work of his predecessor. By choosing Joseph Ratzinger from among themselves, the cardinals recognized that the most important role of the Church is to preserve the faith intact in a world which is subject to the temptation of relativism and a life free of obligations. The fact that the Pope was elected quickly proves that the College of Cardinals was able to get past the existing divisions, and secure the helm of the Church into the hands of a person who guarantees a steady course.”
Jan Turnau wrote in liberal Gazeta Wyborcza (4/20): “Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Benedict XVI as of yesterday, undoubtedly one of the most outstanding intellectuals of our times, is regarded as a conservative. To Poles, this might mean two diverse stands. The first is to remain faithful to the Catholic doctrine in a world of pluralism, where the Catholic Church can coexist with other faiths and worldviews in a harmonious way, based on common respect. The second stance...is to force one’s own vision onto all those who have different views.... Ratzinger repeatedly warned against the relativism of our times, but also against the totalitarian temptation present in all religions. We would wish that the tough defense of Catholic principles be accompanied by respect for all those who think, believe and feel differently.”
SPAIN "Raising The Ramparts"
Independent El Mundo had this to say (4/20): "By choosing the German cardinal, the Church seems to have chosen to raise fortifications, reaffirm its traditional values...in an era of turbulent social, cultural and technological changes. It is a legitimate and understandable option, but also disappointing for one sector of Catholicism, which was hoping for a leap forward at the start of a new millennium. Maybe his eventual successor will be the person predestined to spearhead great changes in the Church."
TURKEY: "The Danger Of Vatican Fundamentalism"
Mehmet Barlas commented in mass-appeal Sabah (4/21): “There are interesting times before us. Turkey has been discussing possible ways to overcome bigotry in the Islamic world. In the meantime, Catholics have chosen a fundamentalist Pope. Ratzinger is known to be strongly anti-secular. He worries about Turkey’s membership in the EU, arguing that the Christian identity of the EU will be negatively affected. The new Pope is so bigoted that he even considers equality between men and women as a concept that threatens the family order.... It will be interesting to see how the new Pope will be treated in predominantly Catholic countries. Maybe the Catholic world thinks he will not survive very long.”
ISRAEL: "Pope Benedict XVI"
Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post commented (4/21): "It is a shame that some Israeli newspapers, along with some newspapers elsewhere, sensationalized the Catholic church's choice of a new Pope with headlines like, 'White smoke, black past' and 'From Nazi Youth to the Vatican.' Our own headline, 'New Pope hailed for Jewish ties,' we must say, would seem more fair and accurate.... We should not, of course, pretend that the new Pope is advocating anything but his own religion.... It should be no surprise, but also no concern, that the leader of any religion prefers his own creed to another, particularly when Benedict XVI is so personally identified with John Paul II's expressions of respect for Judaism, Jews, and Israel. We hope and expect that the improvement in Catholic-Jewish relations will continue under his papacy. A German Pope could be in a unique position to go even further than his predecessors in facing the Vatican's troubled and not fully revealed role during the terrible era that he lived through as a young man. That role remains of obvious and great concern to the Jewish people."
SAUDI ARABIA: "Dialogue And Destruction"
Riyadh’s moderate Al-Jazira editorialized (4/21): "Extremism is not only a characteristic of certain Muslim groups but it is also a fact in all faiths. In Christianity, the neo-conservatives are very extreme and the danger of their extremism is that they possess the tools of a superpower state and use them as tools to realize their extreme aspirations of violence against others. In Judaism, Israel the state is a good example of extremism under the leadership of persons like current Israeli Prime Minister Sharon. The size of the crimes committed by a single person like Sharon is quite sufficient to show the extent to which the Zionists can go in their extremism.... Thus, Muslims will come at the top of those who will welcome the call of the new Pope for dialogue between faiths...to prevent bloodshed and destruction."
"Rome's New Pope: First Class Politician"
Abha's moderate Al-Watan commented (Internet version, 4/21): "If Europe has managed to come out of the Middle Age darkness by separating the church from the state, then the new Pope of Rome, Joseph Ratzinger, who decided to be called Benedict XVI, holds a great political plan besides his theological concern.... Politics is at the core of the ministry's work. It was and still will be. The gap gets bigger and smaller depending on the political needs of the Pope."
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
CHINA (HONG KONG SAR): "New Pope Will Need Benedict's Diplomacy"
The independent English-language South China Morning Post commented (4/21): "The election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as the new leader of the Catholic Church will bring continuity--and controversy.... There had been some hopes that a South American, Asian or African Pope would be chosen for the first time. The choice of another European shows that the Church does not yet consider itself ready to make such a move--although these parts of the world are now where most Catholics live. Such a development will surely come in the future. The new Pope is 78. It may be that he is seen as being a transitional figure. His election is seen by some as a backward step for the Church. That remains to be seen. He is regarded as kind, gentle, softly spoken and highly intelligent. But Benedict XVI is unlikely to become a globe-trotting media superstar in the style of John Paul II. The new Pope may lack the personality that made his predecessor so successful. But he will, in his own way, need to strive for unity. Perhaps he had this in mind when opting for the name Benedict. The last Pope Benedict diplomatically sought to bring together those with different opinions. This is a quality the new Pope will need. Continuity is assured. But avoiding controversy will be much more difficult to achieve."
"What Can The New Pope Do For The World?"
The independent Chinese-language Hong Kong Economic Times observed (4/21): "From the name chosen by the new Pope--Benedict XVI--we can see that the new Pope has an intention to follow the style of the last Pope Benedict.... Communication and tolerance are important universal values. In today's world, value is diversified and goes to extremes. If Pope Benedict XVI seeks to practice what he preaches by showing the power communication and the spirit of tolerance, and if he can follow Pope John Paul II's love and forgiveness to establish a model for the world and to let the values penetrate into people's hearts, he may be able to resolve disputes and clashes and find a peaceful coexistence for the world. If this is really the case, it will give some hints for the world to reduce contradictions such as the clashes between the U.S. and the Islamic world, the killings between Israel and Palestine and the recent Sino-Japanese disputes. Confrontations and violence will only intensify contradictions. Only communication and tolerance can bring about long-term peace to the world."
JAPAN: "Conservative Line To Continue"
Business-oriented Nikkei argued (4/21): "The late Pope John Paul II took a hard line with such issues as contraception, abortion, female clergy and married priests. As it is highly unlikely that Pope Benedict XVI would change his predecessor's position on these controversial themes, liberals in the Catholic Church must be disappointed at his selection.... The new pontiff must first address 'North-South' problems within the Church. Cardinals from Europe and North America have differing views from their counterparts in developing nations, who insist that the Church must first address poverty issues. He must also tackle the issue of how to promote dialogue with Islam."
"Tough Road Ahead"
Conservative Sankei noted (4/21): "Criticism of conservative theology within the Catholic Church, which emerged while Pope John Paul II was in power, is becoming more pronounced. Pope Benedict XVI will be asked to reform the church in line with positions held by moderates on such issues as women in the priesthood and contraception. The pontiff's most important task will be reform within."
SOUTH KOREA: "New Pope Benedict XVI, ‘Blessings for Mankind’"
Independent Dong-a Ilbo editorialized (4/21): “German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has been elected to become the Church’s 265th pontiff...and he chose the name Benedict XVI. The name ‘Benedict’ means ‘blessed by God.’ Just as his name suggests, we hope that the world will be granted God’s grace and blessings, so that it may take another step toward love and peace.... After his election, the new Pope asked a large crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square to pray for him, humbling himself as a ‘simple, humble worker in the Lord’s vineyard.’ As long as he adheres to this attitude, he will become a Pope as beloved and revered as the late Pope John Paul II, who will forever be remembered as the ‘Apostle of Peace.’... Considering that he is regarded as a conservative, orthodox Cardinal who opposes homosexuality, abortion, and human cloning, and that there are growing voices calling for changes both inside and outside the Church, we expect him to make sagacious decisions and to take prudent measures. We truly hope that Pope Benedict XVI, the first Pope elected in the 21st century, will shine a light of hope on global issues that remain unresolved, such as conflicts between civilizations and religions, and the problem of poverty.”
"Pope Benedict XVI"
The independent, English-language Korea Herald commented (Internet version, 4/21): "Like his predecessor, the new pontiff is known to be a staunch conservative. So he is expected to endeavor to consolidate the legacy of John Paul II.... Pope Benedict XVI is expected to fight against relativism--an ideology that there are no absolute truths--in the spirit John Paul II fought totalitarianism.... Pope Benedict XVI`s election, while widely celebrated around the world, elicited disappointment from some Catholics who hoped for a reformist and pastoral hope. We hope he can work with them. Pope Benedict XVI faces a large number of other challenges. John Paul II, who enjoyed an extraordinary popularity during his 26 years as the Catholic leader, sought to open dialogue with other religions. We hope the new Pope will continue to make such religious reconciliation efforts."
MALAYSIA: "Hope Pope Benedict Will Strive For Peace"
Leading, government-influenced, Chinese-language Sin Chew Daily held (4/21): "Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has been elected as the new pope, taking on the title Pope Benedict XVI. As the head of the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics, the role of the new pope in modern times is more that just to serve as a religious leader of his believers. The new pope is going to be looked upon as a spiritual leader in a turbulent world. Known to be a staunch conservative, we can expect the new pope to follow the path of the late Pope John Paul II. While a Catholic pope is not a professional diplomat, in the effort to promote world peace, reduce racial conflicts and promote understanding between the West and the Muslim world, the late Pope John Paul has set a good example. While we expect the immediate task facing Pope Benedict would be to deal with the loud voices for cardinal reform including issues related to priesthood, abortion, and birth control among others, we do hope he would be able, besides serving as a shepherd to lead the world in social and religious reform, to strive to promote world peace."
"Pave A New Path"
Government-influenced, Chinese-language Nanyang Siang Pau observed (4/21): "Most observers are of the opinion that the conservative new Pope Benedict would follow the path of the late Pope John Paul II in with regard to the traditional conservative policy of the Catholics, among them, in rejecting stem cell research, homosexual relationships, and use of condom for birth control. While we can expect some resistance to the new Pope coming from the ultramodern U.S. society, we do sincerely hope that with his conservative attitude and the new challenges facing him, Pope Benedict would be able to pave a new path for himself in extending his merciful hands to the weaker nations, hearing the voice of the suppressed and preventing any war that might bring harm and suffering to the weaker societies in an indirect manner."
PHILIPPINES: "Benedict XVI"
Top circulation, center-left Philippine Daily Inquirer editorialized (4/21): “The new Pope, Benedict XVI, belongs to the same generation as John Paul II. This means that a fundamental struggle for the soul of Catholicism--between members of the Vatican II generation, those who view its legacy as both innovation and change, and those, like Benedict XVI, who are wary of Vatican II and see it as modernization gone far at the expense of orthodoxy--will continue, and more bitterly, at that. The struggle will not just be spiritual, or even theological. It will also be a personal one.... While Benedict XVI is viewed as personally humble, even charming, and undeniably intellectually gifted -- even his enemies say that in his own way, the new Pope is indeed a holy man--his manner of ruling seems out of step with what liberal Catholics want.... In the Western world, in the lands where churches are empty, the election of Benedict XVI has been viewed with alarm. But in many other countries and places where the seminaries are full, and the people actually attend Mass, the election was greeted with relief and even joy. Those who approve of the new Pope seek certainty, authority and a kind of fearlessness and sureness, often lacking, it is felt, in the modern world and its institutions.... Whatever the future brings, few will forget the sense of loss (the world felt over the death of John Paul II) that the election of the first German Pope in nearly a thousand years is expected to alleviate.”
"A New Spiritual Leader"
The moderate Philippine Star commented (4/21): “The election of Germany’s Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in a conclave that lasted less than two days was not unexpected.... What that means for the Catholic Church, as far as most Vatican watchers are concerned, is more of the same ultraconservative adherence to tradition that John Paul pursued throughout his 26-year papacy.... His election was greeted with joy by the faithful in the predominantly Catholic Philippines, where Church leaders had earlier voiced concern over reports that someone with a liberal bent might be chosen to succeed John Paul. In other parts of the world, however--particularly in Latin America and even Ratzinger’s native Germany--misgivings were aired over the election of a 78-year-old hard-liner to lead the Church in the new millennium. During John Paul’s long reign, the Catholic Church lost untold numbers of the faithful to secularism and Protestant evangelicalism. It’s too early to pass judgment on the new Vicar of Christ. For now the world wishes Pope Benedict XVI only the best as he sets out to make the Church a powerful instrument for peace.”
Lito Banayo wrote in the left of center Malaya (4/21): “What we will see in the next few years would be more transitional leadership than innovative, certainly not revolutionary.... His speech at the start of the conclave contained a very clear message of the dogmatism of ‘sticking to the fundamental beliefs’ and against what he labeled the ‘dictatorship of relativism’. But that he would lend his moral authority towards redressing the age-old grievances of the poor and marginalized in this world, living in the squalor of the esteros and garbage dumps of Metro Manila, or the favelas of Rio and Sao Paulo, or the dung huts of the Sahel, the refugee camps of the Sudan, that is what the ‘transitional’ Benedict XVI could well lead. He could urge the leaders of the wealthier world from whence he came to create the conditions that would give new hope to the people of the poor countries who look to their faith beyond the purely spiritual. Then the reign of Benedict XVI would not be mere transition after all. Oremus nostrum.”
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
INDIA: "Being Catholic"
The centrist Times of India editorialized (4/21): “The Catholic church is at a crossroads. Church attendance and the number of priests being ordained is declining in many parts of Christendom even as there is a resurgence of religion in several parts of the world; and issues like contraception, abortion, homosexuality, marriage and euthanasia divide Christians across the board. Pope Benedict XVI, as Cardinal Ratzinger will now be known, has a reputation of being doctrinaire and ideologically conservative.... The new Pope would be doing the world an immense service if he were to review the Church’s stand on contraception and birth control. If he can move away from hard-line positions on celibacy and ordination of women, many internal problems of the church could be controlled.... There were many who had hoped that a non-European, like Francis Arinze or Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, would become Pope. But now the Pope is once again a European, he must ensure that the Vatican is responsive to the concerns of the developing world. Like John Paul II, who was the first Pope to step inside a mosque, the new Pope would do well to engage is interfaith dialogue. The world catholic also describe someone who is inclusive or an idea that is encompassing.”
"Viva Il Papa"
The pro-BJP right-of-center Pioneer noted (4/21): "'The fact that the Lord can work and act even with insufficient means consoles me,' said Joseph Ratzinger--now Benedict XVI--the Catholic world's new Pope.... The humility implicit in his statement, however, does not obscure the determination to address not only religious, but also socio-economic and political issues he must face in the potentially tortuous path ahead.... The self-styled liberal Catholics who had hoped for a 'change' are disappointed. They have predicted a 'leap backward' driving even more people away from the Church. Curiously, the liberal demagogues are as rigid in their beliefs as they accuse the conservatives of being.... If science is what the 'liberals' believe in, that science changes constantly as each generation of scientists negate almost everything that was said by their predecessors. The new Pope is committed to maintain the stringency of the Catholic order and the stridency of its convictions. It is, however, to be hoped that his determination to spread the Church's word does not lead to renewed efforts to promote contentious religious conversions in India.”
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO: "Congo Deserves A Cardinal"
An editorial in L'Avenir read (4/20): "The moment has come for a country like the Democratic Republic of Congo to have more than a cardinal. It's demographic weight and its energy speak strongly in its favor. It is also the right time to argue in favor of the Republic of Congo, which is the orphan of Cardinal Biayenda, whose assassination came so soon after President Marien Ngouabi himself was assassinated. These events were down to politics. It is not right that the Catholic faithful of this country should suffer. The new Pope therefore has a considerable number of tasks in his in tray. So welcome, Benedict 16th."
KENYA: "Pope Must Make The Cut"
The independent, left-of-center Nation remarked (Internet version, 4/21): "Pope Benedict XVI...brings a personal reputation for being very conservative.... But it would be premature to think Benedict XVI will only carry forward John Paul's rigid line on the pressing issues of our times like condoms, abortion, and women's ordination.... One of the shortest elections in Vatican history...[shows] Pope Benedict XVI has a mandate to pursue change....The Catholic Church is a complex creature, so change can't happen overnight. Pope Benedict would do well to begin by convening a Third Vatican Council to discuss reforms. This is particularly so, considering that the last one was 40 years ago. Since these Councils take years, it's pragmatic to take the position that far-reaching changes like allowing the ordination of women as priests which are the kind of matters that would be dealt with there, will take a long time. However, others like expanding the role of nuns in Mass, and laywomen in the management of Church affairs, don't have to wait until then. The Catholic Church is also stuck in an unhelpful position over its opposition to condom use, particularly given the ravages of AIDS. Again, we believe that the Pope has room for manuever here. The Vatican itself doesn't have to endorse condom use, but it can go round its fears by allowing Cardinals in respective territories to adopt 'guidelines that are appropriate to local conditions.' That would allow South African bishops to support condom use, for example, and not be in conflict with the Vatican. The Pope also needs to embrace the charismatic Catholic movements more deeply than it has so far done.... The questions of condom use, the position of the charismatic movements, and liturgy raise a question that wasn't urgent for the old Catholic Church--one of relevance.... Today, however, very many people who want to be part of the church find themselves unable to be, not because their faith is inadequate, but because the guardians have set unreasonable entry rules. It is within a Pope's power to open the doors of the Church, and make it universal like it was intended to be. If Pope John Paul didn't do it, it was mostly because of his reluctance. We hope Benedict XVI will summon the will."
UGANDA: "Should Bring Hope On Old Issues"
The independent, influential Monitor took this view (Internet version, 4/21): "Pope Benedict's elevation has brought the question of reform versus conservatism to the fore of debate in the Catholic Church. Issues of homosexuality, sexual abuse by priests, and the ordination of women that have polarized the church internationally, are not so strong in this country. But Ugandans are watching for early signs from the man nicknamed 'Cardinal No' for his reputed lack of compromise on religious orthodoxy, on birth control, abortion, condoms, celibacy of priests and the Christian evangelical movement's onslaught on the church's numbers. The government may be encouraging couples to get big families but the pinch of poverty and HIV/AIDS are dictating birth control and safe sex even among devout Catholics. Also, there has been a drop in the number of Catholics as a percentage of the population, as shown by the latest census figures. On these issues, therefore, many devout but progressive Catholics are hoping the new Pope will forge a more attractive interpretation of the doctrine. As he begins to follow in the footsteps of the man he called the Great Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict's choice of name has been a good first sign. Benedict is 'blessing' in Latin, and the last Pope Benedict is reputed for settling animosity between traditionalists and modernists. Conservatism, therefore, should be seen as a natural progression for a 78-year-old man, who as a young priest was considered quite progressive. Pope Benedict is not likely to touch as many hearts as Pope John Paul II did because of his preference for reticence and intelligent scientific debate over dogmatic faith. To win over Ugandan Catholics, however, Pope Benedict will have to borrow the tireless wings of the most travelled pope in history and traverse the world with his message. It is a good sign that many Catholics find no contradiction in Pope John Paul II's rejection of the use of Catholicism to politically liberate nations from oppressive regimes in Latin America and yet he was credited with tearing down the iron curtain in the former communist states of Eastern Europe. There is, therefore, hope that Pope Benedict's past aversion to social action against poverty will not deter the global campaign for the amelioration of the negative effects of poverty, third-world debt, and unfair trade regimes."
ZIMBABWE: "African Catholics: Time For Some Real Activism"
The independent Daily News editorialized (Internet version, 4/20): "There was understandable disappointment among a number of African bishops who felt somehow that this time around the conclave of Cardinals would choose an African.... But more realistic African Catholics had calculated way back that the Church was not ready for an African Pope. One reason for this was that Catholicism was growing faster in Africa and Latin America than anywhere else, while Europe was 'deChristianizing.' Many felt it was time for this to be acknowledged through the election of an African Pope. But Catholic Africans should not lose heart. If the new Pope, said to have been a confidante of John Paul and as dead-set against condom use as he was, then the clergy in Africa has to engage in some old-fashioned activism to change the new Pope's mind.... John Paul II did not know much about Africa before he became the head of the Catholic church in 1978. Pope Benedict XVI is in the same situation. He may be a renowned theological intellectual, but cannot know how much havoc the HIV/AIDS pandemic has inflicted on the continent. He must be convinced by all the African bishops that the Catholic church must re-examine its unhelpful, to put it mildly, stance on the use of condoms as a measure to reduce the incidence of HIV/AIDS on the continent.... The Catholic Church has faced many theological challenges and one of them was its success in Africa, its ability to interpret the scriptures so that Africans could appreciate them and convert to Catholicism, in their millions. Unless the new Holy Father is willing to listen to the calls of the clergy in Africa for a review of the use of condoms as a measure to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS, there could be a drift from the Church."
CANADA: "The Doctrinaire CV Of Pope Benedict XVI"
The leading Globe and Mail opined (4/20): "Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany is now Pope Benedict XVI, the 265th pope in a line stretching back 2,000 years. For a church steeped in tradition and orthodoxy, he is in many ways an ideal choice. But for a church that is increasingly out of step with the needs and aspirations of its modern-day parishioners, he is a disappointing choice.... The danger for the Catholic Church is that the cardinals appear to have selected an even more doctrinaire version of John Paul II, without the latter's remarkable charisma and ability to connect to young people. At a time when the church should be seeking ways to narrow the gulf between traditionalists and modernists, between its own opaque and autocratic governance and an increasingly democratic and transparent outside world, it has selected a spiritual leader best remembered for doing his part to make the gulf wider."
"Pope Benedict's Daunting Mission"
The liberal Toronto Star commented (Internet version, 4/20): "After John Paul's doctrinal conservatism, some would have preferred a liberal successor. Benedict, with his Catholic certainty, his demand for a 'clear faith, based on the creed,' and his disdain for moral relativism, secular ideologies, 'radical feminism,' New Age fads and sects, is the antithesis of that. But Catholicism has always been a disciplined faith. While some Catholics may have preferred another candidate, few will be surprised. Did the cardinals deliberately pass up a chance to elect a young, dynamic figure from a region where the faith is growing rapidly, such as Africa or Asia? Undoubtedly. They clearly preferred simple continuity. At 78, Benedict will likely be a transitional figure. Liberal Catholics can only hope he will grow in the job, becoming a generous, healing Vicar of Christ, not an inflexible guardian of convention. A pope whose stern faith will be tempered by charity, and an acceptance that Christians must live Jesus's call to hope, each in his and her own way. But however the 265th pontificate defines itself, Catholics of strong faith and healthy conscience will continue to debate such issues as Vatican-clergy relations, church discipline and morality."
ARGENTINA: "The New Pope And The New World"
The liberal, English-language Buenos Aires Herald editorialized (4/20): "Perhaps now is the time to talk about who did not become Pope and what the new pontiff means for Argentina. In this part of the world Benedict XVI will be identified as much for who he is not as for who he is--in other words, he is not a Latin American in general nor Argentine primate Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio in particular. There were strong numerical arguments to favor a Pope from Latin America as the home of 43 percent of the world's 1.1 billion Catholics.... But why not be bolder and admit forthright that Latin America does not deserve a Pope as the region with the worst income inequality in the world--what kind of Christian witness is that?... It might be suggested that Latin America in general and Argentina in particular should become more than nominally Catholic in order to earn a Pope. By far the most dominant feature emerging in the preliminary portraits of the new Pope is that this son of a Bavarian policeman is deeply conservative.... What can safely be said here and now is that this conservatism only increases the potential for a clash with the center-left Nestor Kirchner administration, already in conflict with the Church during the last days of John Paul II."
"The Black Prince Takes Over"
Claudio Uriarte opined in left-of-center Pagina 12 (4/20): "It is as though Donald Rumsfeld had been elected president of the U.S., or as though Al Capone had been elected mayor of Chicago in the '20s.... The election of Panzer Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope seems to represent the reduction of John Paul II's Church to its most conservative core.... Politically, the most important thing will be to see how this sort of shielding of the Church...will relate to secular power. Of course, John Paul II's 'black prince' seems to lack his predecessor's charisma and instinctive populism, and will do little to recover adepts in the so-called 'post-Christian Europe.' Perhaps, he will agree President Bush in both his sexual and social morality, and his crusade against Islamism. Neither of them notices that the relaxation in customs they criticize and the Islamic fundamentalism they fight largely appear as a dialectic response to the capitalistic globalization that the U.S. has done so much to promote."
BRAZIL: "Benedict XVI, The Orthodox Option"
Liberal Folha de S. Paulo editorialized (4/20): “The choice of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to succeed John Paul II represents an unquestionable victory of the Catholic Church’s most conservative wing. He is certainly one of the most intellectually qualified for the mission.... Ratzinger’s choice demonstrates John Paul II’s enormous influence on the election of his successor.... The choice, however, has frustrated the hopes of the most liberal sectors of the Church, which hoped at least for a Pope more inclined to decentralization and to discussion of non-essential points of the Church’s doctrine. It has also disappointed those who expected a greater geographic opening, with the election of a Latin American or African cardinal. Ratzinger is the very opposite of all this: European, centralizer, archconservative.... Although the new Pope’s profile predicts an energetic and controversial period, his is being considered a transitional pontificate. It is very unlikely that Benedict XVI, 78, will lead the Catholic Church for a period comparable to that of his predecessor. The College of Cardinals made a risky bet by choosing Ratzinger.”
"Wojtyla’s Natural Successor"
Center-right O Estado de S. Paulo commented (4/20): “In a world afflicted by quick changes, terrorist attacks, where values have been relative, sects multiply and fundamentalisms ascend, the Catholics want a strong-handed leader in command. This is what John Paul II represented in his long and consistent papacy.... The cardinals chose the one among them who seems to have the best qualifications to continue John Paul II’s work--the German Joseph Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI.”
MEXICO: "A Majority Laments"
Mexico City's Excelsior observed (4/20): "In Latin America, where half the world's Catholics live in a situation of chronic social injustice, a majority laments the election of a conservative Pope who could help to open the door wider for the departure of the faithful."
"Church Is Out Of Step"
Old-guard nationalist El Universal remarked (4/20): "His continuity and his emphasis on centralization will provoke a lack of credibility which will become visible over the next few years. The Church is out of step with the world."
PERU: "New Pope, Old Challenges, Great Defiance"
Center-right, influential leading daily El Comercio editorialized (4/20): "The election--only one day and a half after deliberations--of German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as the new chief of the Catholic Church has not been surprising. The challenges that this close ally of Pope John Paul II has to face are not new. Ratzinger is well respected by the Roman Curia. However, he will need to make great efforts to become a closer pastor for numerous Catholics. Many believe that he will ensure continuity of John Paul II's teachings, including his approach to other religions and his opposition to abortion, divorce, homosexuality, etc. However, he should have a particular interested in combating the 'dictatorship of relativism,' which according to Ratzinger, must be fought against with the traditional values of the Church. After the dynamic papacy of the great John Paul II, Catholics throughout the world expect that Benedict XVI's leadership reaffirm the guiding and testimonial presence of the Church in the current convulsed world, standing against war and defending life, human rights, freedom and the dignity of those less favored."
Center-right Peru.2 concluded (4/20): "The election of German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger Benedict XVI, opens a new phase in the evolution of the Catholic Church after the crucial papacy of John Paul II. The designation of a 78-year-old Pope reflects that cardinals have preferred a short new papacy. Moreover, the celerity of his designation shows that John Paul II's long period in office gave him enough time to organize a succession that follows his central lines of action--Cardinal Ratzinger was his right hand, especially in the areas of doctrine and moral. Therefore, it is probable that someone who has worked so closely to his predecessor will continue on with his work. But we need to take into account the current complex scenario where the Pope will perform his crucial mission, mainly because of the increased population growth in many regions of the world. Bringing the Church up to date seems to be Benedict XVI's task."
"Benedict XVI In The Public Eye"
Center-left daily La Republica maintained (4/20): "Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has been the guardian of the Catholic orthodox doctrine. It is worth saying now that his papacy begins. From now on, Benedict XVI faces the great challenge of being the Pope of all Catholics in the world. In spite of his doctrinal rigidity, we must expect that he will be the messenger of the Christian faith rather that a dogma spokesperson. Although the media highlighted his conservatism, he is a statesman and his intellectual capacity and charisma have been recognized as well. The Catholic Church--meaning the way Catholics understand their faith in their daily lives--has always left space for renewing trends. We hope that sooner that later, the Vatican will boost the reforms promoted in the Vatican Council II (1962) and the Latin American Episcopal conferences of Medellin (1968) and Puebla (1979)."
VENEZUELA: "Pope Benedict"
Leading liberal daily El Nacional commented (4/20): “Upon seeing the white smoke and hearing the bells ringing, everybody celebrated. Many expected a Pope from Latin America or from the Third World. But the time has not come yet. Pope Ratzinger has serious challenges in a disturbed world, as he himself has said. The Catholic Church faces as many challenges as the contemporary civilization itself does. Benedict XVI will have to make some decisions on the relations between the Holy See and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. He will have to sign, first of all, the appointment of the new Apostolic Nuncio in our country, chosen by John Paul II, but still needs the final requirement of the signature. Other decisions are pending, such as the appointment of the new Archbishop of Caracas. And when he deems it fit, to give Venezuela the cardinal that it always had since the good John XXIII elevated Venezuelan archbishop José Humberto Quintero to cardinal in 1961.”
Foreign affairs expert Adolfo R. Taylhardat commented in leading conservative daily El Universal (4/20): “The selection of Cardinal Ratzinger as the new Pope has not been a surprise. John Paul II always considered him as his ‘close friend.’ Judging from the name chosen by Cardinal Ratzinger, we can tell that Benedict XVI will not only dedicate his apostolate to continuing and consolidating the worldwide missionary work his predecessor developed, but also he will lead the Catholic Church to play a determinant role in the efforts to help find the solutions to the international conflicts with an ecumenical spirit. Regarding Latin America, it is important to highlight the role Cardinal Ratzinger had in quelling ‘the liberation theology’ and in isolating its main promoter, the Brazilian Leonardo Boff. This background of the new Pope may possibly generate diametrically opposed feelings in our region.”
"New Times, An Old Pope?"
Sociologist Antonio Cova Maduro commented in leading conservative daily El Universal (4/20): “We already have a Pope, and we know what the old Ratzinger thinks and has done. For the Church strange times begin and we will have to see how the world will react. A German old man that chooses an unexpected name, what does it mean and what can he achieve? The short time he has--he’s just turned 78--will tell. Will the Church have to wait a little more to enter, with courage and determination, the world with which it has to live and which it has to vivify? It doesn’t have so much time and neither does the world have so much patience.”
|Office of Research||Issue Focus||Foreign Media Reaction|