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Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger Elected Pope Benedict XVI

  • Charlene Sarmiento

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has been chosen as new leader of the Roman Catholic Church. He succeeds the late John Paul II and is the Church's 265th pontiff.

Crowds cheered as white smoke came from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel and the bells of St. Peter's Basilica rang-- signaling that the conclave of cardinals had elected a new pope.

He is Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger who took the name "Benedict the 16th." The new pontiff, who is also the bishop of Rome, wore his papal robes and gave the city and the world his first blessing overlooking a balcony of St. Peter's Square.

In the address, the new pope described himself as a humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord. He asked the faithful to remember him in their prayers and expressed confidence that the Blessed Virgin Mary will support him in his work as leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

The 78-year-old pontiff was born in the Bavarian village of Marktl am Inn on April 16, 1927. He was a theology professor and later the archbishop of Munich.

Hubert Gschwendtner, a friend of the newly-elected pontiff says, "He had a great deal of charisma and exceptionally brilliant elocution skills, which were remarkable on the one hand. On the other hand, he is very natural. For example, he could really get on well with people and one could talk to him easily."

Cardinal Ratzinger was chosen by John Paul II to lead the congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the office that oversees the Church's principles, in 1981. He is considered a conservative, denouncing homosexuality, abortion, and women in the priesthood.

As the dean of the College of Cardinals, he presided over John Paul II's funeral mass and the daily meetings with other cardinals to discuss choosing the next Pope.

Father Thomas J. Reese is the editor of "America," the national Catholic weekly magazine. "Cardinal Ratzinger is extremely, highly respected by the cardinals, an extremely bright man, and he has had an extremely powerful position in the papacy of John Paul II as head of the congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He is a very good theologian," says Father Reese.

U.S. President George Bush offered his best wishes saying, "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."

Pope Benedict XVI is the first German pope in more than 900 years. The last was Victor II, bishop of Eichstatt in 1055.