New pope expected to maintain conservative line
German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was elected on Tuesday to succeed Pope John Paul II, was a close confidant of the late pontiff and fellow conservative.
The newly elected Pope Benedict XVI, who turned 78 on Saturday, will be expected to maintain John Paul II’s deeply conservative line.
He has railed against “greed” and “self-sufficiency” within the Roman Catholic Church and rejects any attempt to modernise.
Ratzinger was head of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under the late pope, and celebrated his funeral Mass.
He also opened the ultra-secret conclave that elected him on only the fourth ballot, apparently overcoming efforts among more moderate and liberal fellow cardinals to block him.
When John Paul II gave him the task of producing the texts for the mediation of the Way of the Cross this year, Ratzinger included criticism of the liberal elements of the church, saying: “Often, Lord, your church seems to us to be a boat which is about to sink, a boat full of leaks.”
His tone did not surprise those seeking to modernise the church, such as one of his own pupils, the Brazilian theologian Leonardo Boff, or dissidents such as the German-Swiss Hans Kueng, a fierce critic of John Paul II.
The German cardinal’s hard-line approach, his nationality and his age were all seen as handicaps to him becoming the new pope, according to many Vatican watchers.
Born on April 16 1927, in Marktl am Inn in the southern German state of Bavaria, Ratzinger was ordained into the priesthood in 1951. He became the archbishop of Munich in March 1977.
Four months later, Pope Paul VI made him a cardinal, meaning he was one of only three of the cardinal electors not appointed by John Paul II.
Ratzinger’s fierce opposition to the liberal fringe of the church has made him a firm foe of progressive Catholics.
He has rejected the ordination of women and marriage for priests, and opposes homosexuality and communism—and he has never been afraid of upsetting political sensibilities.
In 1984, he said: “Communist regimes which came to power in the name of the liberation are one of the disgraces of our times.”
One of his more recent causes has been Turkey’s attempts to become a member of the European Union.
He says allowing the predominantly Muslim nation into Europe’s club would be “an enormous mistake”.
Ratzinger has also attacked rock music, calling it “the expression of basic passions”.
In the face of the church’s drop in followers in Europe, Ratzinger would like to see a move towards the most radical Catholic groups.
“The more a religion is assimilated, the more it becomes superfluous,” he said last October in an interview with the Italian magazine Panorama.
“However, many Christian movements such as evangelists, charismatics or the free churches in Germany are expanding because they defend tooth and nail the great moral values, such as the evolution of mentalities,” he said.
“These groups were considered until recently to be fundamentalists and fierce opponents of the Catholic Church, but they are beginning to move closer to us because they have realised that only the church defends moral values. And we are delighted about this rapprochement.”
One person convinced that Ratzinger would not be the new pope was his brother, Georg, who told a German newspaper earlier this month that he “has not got a chance”.
“I cannot imagine that a German would be elected pope,” Georg Ratzinger told the Abendzeitung newspaper.—AFP