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The conclave of cardinals at the Vatican has determined the successor to John Paul II -- Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who has taken the name Benedict XVI. Ratzinger, who has a reputation for hard-line insistence on traditional Catholic dogma, had worked with John Paul II for many years, and had been considered the inside bet for elevation to the Papacy. His first remarks to the crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square, however, reflected his humility and care:
"Dear brothers and sisters, after our great pope, John Paul II, the cardinals have elected me, a simple, humble worker in God's vineyard," according to a translation of remarks he made in Italian. "I am consoled by the fact that the Lord knows how to work and how to act, even with insufficient tools, and I especially trust in your prayers.
"In the joy of the resurrected Lord, trustful of his permanent help, we go ahead, sure that God will help. And Mary, his most beloved mother, stands on our side."
For both Catholics and outsiders, the selection of Ratzinger should be easily recognized as an endorsement of John Paul II's direction and a strong desire to continue in their current path. Two old sayings about the selection of popes would have counseled against Ratzinger's elevation. The first proverb is that a fat Pope follows a skinny pope, meaning that either the conclave (if you don't believe in Catholicism) or the Holy Spirit (if you do) uses the election of a new Pope to balance out the perceived issues of the last. The other, that one who goes into the conclave a Pope comes out a Cardinal, refers to the usual obscurity of purpose to papal selection.
Neither of these applied this time. Ratzinger had long been seen as a successor in every manner to John Paul II. Even though his age will likely preclude the lengthy Papacy of his predecessor, whatever term he serves will in all likelihood serve as an extension of the previous pontificate. His elevation gives a stunningly clear endorsement of the work of John Paul II -- and for those of us who believe in Roman Catholocism, that endorsement comes from the Holy Spirit and should serve as a lesson to all of us.
Overall, Benedict XVI's elevation pleases me. I believe that Benedict's previous strong stands against moral relativism holds a special lesson in today's world. It means the Church will take stands on what we see as eternal truths, even if those positions cause others to complain about old-fashioned values in a modern world. As he said as Cardinal Ratzinger, "[Relativism] is letting oneself be 'swept along by every wind of teaching.' (It) looks like the only attitude (acceptable) to today's standards. 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."
An impressive Cardinal has become an impressive Pope. I will pray for his health and success, and ask all of you to join me.
UPDATE: Some people at the usual places have reacted with their foul-mouth, hate-filled rants, claiming that Benedict XVI was a Nazi even though the Jerusalem Post rebuts any such thinking. If you want more intelligent commentary, you could go anywhere else on the Internet -- but you'll be better off visiting one my favorites, The Anchoress. Start here and scroll up.Sphere It View blog reactions
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