Ratzinger Elected New Pope

By: Venton D. Blandin
By: Venton D. Blandin

April 19, 2005

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, a longtime guardian of doctrinal orthodoxy, was elected the new pope Tuesday evening in the first conclave of the new millennium. He chose the name Pope Benedict XVI.

Ratzinger, the first German pope in centuries, served John Paul II 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.

White smoke poured from a chimney at the Vatican and bells tolled on Tuesday evening, announcing to the world that a new pope was elected in the first papal conclave of the new millennium.

Crowds in St. Peter's Square chanted: "Viva il Papa!" or "Long live the pope!"

"It's only been 24 hours, surprising how fast he was elected," Vatican Radio said, commenting on how the new pope was chosen on the conclave's second day.

It's not unprecedented, reports CBS News Correspondent John Roberts. The shortest papal election of the past century was two days and three ballots in 1939 when Pope Pius XII was elected.

"What we do know based on past experiences is that someone early on gained a great deal of momentum and won on the fourth ballot," said CBS News Analyst Father Paul Robichaud.

More pilgrims poured into St. Peter's Square, and the bells kept ringing 10 minutes after the original tolling. Pilgrims said the rosary as they awaited the name of the new pope, and prelates stood on the roof of the Apostolic Palace, watching as the crowd nearly doubled.

The bells rang at 6:04 p.m. (12:04 p.m. EDT) ending confusion over the smoke signal that had risen from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel. White smoke is used to announce the election of a new pope, along with the ringing of bells, which was added for this conclave.

The world awaited the formal announcement of the new pope, to be made on the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica by Chilean Cardinal Jorge Arturo Medina Estivez.

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

Antoinette Hastings, from Kent Island, Md., rose from her wheelchair, grasping her hands together and crying. She has artificial knees, making it tough to stand.

"I feel blessed, absolutely blessed," she said. "I just wish the rest of my family were here to experience this with me."

The 265th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church succeeds John Paul II, who died April 2 at age 84 after gaining extraordinary popularity over a 26-year pontificate, history's third-longest papacy. Millions mourned him around the world in a tribute to his charisma.

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.

These include the priest sex-abuse scandals that have cost the church millions in settlements in the United States and elsewhere; coping with a chronic shortage of priests and nuns in the West; and halting the stream of people leaving a church indifferent to teachings they no longer find relevant.

Under John Paul, the church's central authority grew, often to dismay of bishops and rank-and-file Catholics around the world.

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 that revolutionized the church from within and opened up its dialogue with non-Catholics.

The new pope will have to decide whether to keep up the kind of foreign travel that was a hallmark of John Paul's papacy, with his 104 pilgrimages abroad.

The new man may be locked into one foreign trip — the mid-August Catholic youth day gathering in Cologne, Germany. John Paul had agreed to visit and organizers have already spent millions of dollars in preparations.


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