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Selection of New Pope Receives Mixed Reaction

  • Charlene Sarmiento

Pope Benedict XVI said his first Mass at the Sistine Chapel Wednesday, the same place where he was chosen to be the new leader of the Roman Catholic Church on Tuesday. He will meet with cardinals Friday, hold a news conference Saturday and his inaugural mass will be held Sunday. The selection of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as the 265th Pope has had mixed reactions from people, including many Catholics, from around the world.

Pope Benedict XVI inherits a Church with 1.1-billion followers around the world. The selection of former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger on only the second day of deliberations could indicate the conclave of cardinals intended continuity.

Father John Wauck, a professor at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, in Rome says, "I think that rather than a victory for conservatives, the election of Cardinal Ratzinger is actually a demonstration of the unity of the Church. The quickness especially of the election seems to suggest that there weren't great divisions within the College of Cardinals, that it was a fairly easy choice to go with Cardinal Ratzinger. It's a choice of continuity with John Paul II."

Under John Paul II, the former Cardinal was the head of a Vatican office, which oversees and enforces church doctrine. Though the two men shared similar traditional views on doctrine, they had different styles.

Father Joseph Komonchak is a professor of religious studies at Catholic University in Washington D.C. He says, “One of the obvious things about the new Pope is that it's going to be a difference in style. He was always very happy in front of a large crowd. He seemed to draw energy from it. Joseph Ratzinger is a very diffident person - shy almost. I also don't think he'll be able to travel as much as the previous Pope did. I would like to see the new Pope bring some order in the church, the Church in Rome and to the Roman Curia."

While some followers were joyful at the news of his selection, other Catholics had reservations about his conservative positions.

"I think that the problems facing the American Church are going to deepen under this Pope," says Linda Pieczynski.

"I was frankly devastated when I heard the choice of Ratzinger. When I stood in the Square, I felt my heart sink," says another woman.

Some American Catholics disagree with the Pope's stated conservative positions on birth control, women in the priesthood and homosexuality. But Father Joseph Komonchak says the Pope's future actions are not predetermined.

"I imagine he will grow into the job. Imagine being a private person, even as important one as he was and suddenly being Pope. Where you can't make a casual statement without it being headline news somewhere. He's going to have to be more cautious and listen to other people," explained Father Komonchak.

During Mass at the Sistine Chapel, Pope Benedict XVI pledged to work to unify Christians and to continue implementing the work of the Second Vatican Council -- a set of reforms for the spiritual renewal and increased participation in the Catholic Church.

Some fear that Pope Benedict XVI's past work enforcing church doctrine could hinder dialogue between the Catholic Church and other religions. During Mass, Pope Benedict pledged to continue the discourse.

"To all, we ensure that the Church wants to continue weaving an open and sincere dialogue with them, in the quest for the real good for man and society," said the Pope.

Many American Catholics believe that the new Pontiff should reach out to more moderate Catholics-- not just to people in other faiths.

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