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from issue no. 05 - 2005

The testimonies of twenty-one cardinals on the new Pope

Twenty-one cardinals on the new Pope. Part I

Bernardin Gantin

Bernardin Gantin


by Cardinal Bernardin Gantin
Dean Emeritus of the Sacred College

I am very happy that Benedict XVI received me before I returned to Benin to continue being a Roman missionary in Africa. And I am very happy that on the same morning the Pope also received the Cardinal Vicar Camillo Ruini and the heads of CELAM. Rome, Africa and Latin America together. I wished the Pope a long and fruitful pontificate. And I recalled the problems of my continent, often forgotten by the powerful of this world, but always in the heart of the successor of Peter. Of John Paul II yesterday, of his successor today. I spoke of the wars that bloody our land, of the hunger that kills old and young, of the sects that poison the faith of the simple, of the advance of Islam, of AIDS that slaughters the innocent. In this regard I was struck by the fact that the Pope’s first appeal during the first Regina Caeli recited from the window of his apartment in the Apostolic Palace was for peace in Togo, a country bordering my Benin. I was moved by the promptness of the Pope, even if, obviously, I would have preferred his intervention not to have been necessary. In the brief audience we spoke of past and future. There wasn’t time for any nostalgic memories. I can’t however forget the fact that Benedict XVI was created a cardinal by Paul VI in 1977, and in what was a true “mini-consistory” – the new cardinals were four - the cardinal’s hat was also granted to my humble person. I am also grateful to the great Pope Montini for this.

Alfonso López Trujillo

Alfonso López Trujillo


by Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo
President of the Pontifical Council for the Family

«The first work of Ratzinger’s that I read was Introduction to Christianity. It impressed me for its clarity and its way of dealing, beginning from faith, with the problems of the contemporary world. Then his ecclesiological work Word in the Church gave me material for reflection. It was like throwing open the windows and breathing the good oxygen of faith. Its criteria are the right ones. I used to give that book as an ordination present to my priests in Medellín; it is one of those that should be in the library of every priest. I think I have read everything published by Cardinal Ratzinger in Spanish, and also in Italian and French». These words written for my book Testimonianze, which came out in far-off 1997, retain all their value.
May I now also add that my acquaintance with the then Professor Ratzinger goes back to 1971. I had just recently become a bishop and we organized a month of refresher courses in theology for the bishops of the country in the Columbian Episcopal Conference center. And among the conference presenters was the current Pope Benedict XVI. I remember as if it were today that the young Professor Ratzinger sometimes “disappeared” from circulation and retired to a corner to recite his breviary or to prepare for the following lecture. I can testify to how fast he was in speed-writing in preparing his lectures. Afterwards, in 1988, when I was president of the Columbian Episcopal Conference, I organized a week of meetings between the bishops and Ratzinger by himself, who had in the meantime become a cardinal and Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.As a member then of the aforesaid Congregation, I had the opportunity of appreciating over these past twenty years the great human and spiritual qualities of the current Pontiff. His simple, humble, tranquil attitude. His capacity to listen and synthesize. His patient openness to dialogue. Without ever forgetting however the obligation to remember all that the Lord requires of His Church. I also wrote in my book of 1997:«Frankly, in those of us who know him closely, it provokes mirth to see him unjustly qualified as the “grand inquisitor”. First of all, I believe that it was his exemplary obedience alone to bring him such a difficult responsibility, exercised with authority toughened in serene truth, but steadfastly served […]. A little known feature, perhaps, is that of his patience, to which those who have had to do with him in the fulfillment of the duties entrusted to him by the Church could testify, including the liberation theologians». These also are words that eight years later have not lost their validity… On the contrary.I wish to conclude my brief contribution by saying that I feel greatly honored by the fact that I was among the first to be received in private audience by the Pope. On that occasion I had the opportunity of bringing him up to date on the preparations for the world meeting of Families with the Pope planned for the first week of July 2006 in Valencia in Spain.

Giovanni Battista Re

Giovanni Battista Re


by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re
Prefect of the Congregation for the Bishops

If the name Benedict XVI came as a surprise to many, the brevity of the Conclave and the election of Cardinal Ratzinger cannot be spoken of as a real surprise because of the personality of the new Pope.
He was in fact, already many years ago, among the more prominent theologians (called to a university chair at thirty-one, an expert at Vatican Council II, etc.); in addition, from 1977, when he was nominated archbishop of Munich by Paul VI and, some months afterwards, cardinal, he was among the personalities known throughout the world for his intellectual depth, his vision of the problems of our time and his commitment to the defense of the Christian identity.The originality of the name should not be seen as a break with his immediate predecessors: Benedict XVI will certainly continue on the line of John Paul II, in the wake of the bi-millennial tradition of the Church. He said so himself, the day after his election, affirming that he seemed «to feel the strong hand» of Pope John Paul II squeezing his, and him saying: «Don’t be afraid!» (L’Osservatore Romano, 21 April).Pope Ratzinger unites intellectual vigor and rigorousness with human finesse and simplicity of manners. The words with which he presented himself, just after his election as Pope, defining himself as «a simple and humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord», are also indications of his humanity.The greatness of a Pope lies in the fact of being the successor of Saint Peter and, in consequence, the Vicar of Christ on earth with the task of confirming the brothers in the faith and being the foundation of the unity of the Church. The person changes, but the mission itself continues.Nevertheless, every Pope has his own personality, his own origins, the imprint that comes from the ambience in which he had his human and Christian training. So the style of Benedict XVI will be different from that of his predecessor, but the love of Christ and the desire to serve humanity will not be different, helping it to grow in brotherhood, in solidarity, in the respect for others, in love, in justice and peaceful coexistence.In the twenty-three years in which he was head of the department of the Roman Curia concerned with the defense and promotion of the Catholic faith, Cardinal Ratzinger showed himself to be a great witness to the truth about God and about man, without any yielding to fashions and without ever falling into looking for success in this world. In the homily on the day the Conclave opened, commenting on Saint Paul who exhorted «not to let yourselves be carried here and there by every wind of doctrine», Cardinal Ratzinger used strong words against the «dictatorship of relativism», so widespread today, «that leaves as the final yardstick only the self and its desires». And he concluded that an adult faith is not that which «follows the waves of fashion and of the latest novelty», but is «the faith profoundly rooted in the friendship of Christ» (L’Osservatore Romano, 19 April). These are words that make the range of his thought and mentality understandable and that manifest a courageous spirit. A man of deep faith, he is disposed to meet and dialogue with anyone, as long as he is a sincere seeker of truth.Whereas John Paul II was a mystic and a philosopher by nature, a spirituality rooted in the tradition of the Fathers of the Church and a strong theological dimension prevails in Benedict XVI.The choice of name is connected with the commitment to peace that characterized Benedict XV (1914-1922), who spoke of the war as a «futile slaughter» and was an indefatigable seeker of peaceful solutions. But more than anything the name takes up the legacy of Saint Benedict, the founder of monasticism, which spread throughout Europe from Montecassino and greatly influenced the formation of European civilization, founded on the recognition of the primacy of God over history and of spirit over matter. The name Benedict has besides a deep root in faith, culture and civilization. Of the sixteen Popes who chose this name, a good ten were Romans: in the name therefore there is also a root of ‘Roman-ness’.Experience has taught us that every age has the Pope it needs, because the Holy Spirit acts in the Church and in hearts.The extraordinary interest that the Papacy has stirred in the world in these weeks and the mark he has made in people’s hearts shows not only how alive the Catholic Church is, but is also a sign of hope that the action of the new Pope, even among the storms and tribulations that will not be lacking, will bring abundant fruits of goodness and of well-being to humanity today, marked by a desire for the infinite that no one can ever cancel from human hearts. Benedict XVI will now take his own road that will be both new and ancient at the same time. In the homily for the mass of inauguration of the pastoral ministry as the successor of Peter, Benedict XVI wished to recall and make his own the words of John Paul II that resonded on 22 October 1978: «Open the doors to Christ!». He underlined with force that the «Christian is never alone » and that whoever allows Christ to enter his life «loses nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great» (L’Osservatore Romano, 25 April). From now on Pope Ratzinger will not have time to play Mozart on the piano. He will be a Pope who will reinforce faith in the world; he will be a great pastor, demanding in the sphere of faith and of principles, but with a heart full of goodness towards those near and far, in a world thirsting for love and reasons for hope and life.

Francis Arinze

Francis Arinze


by Cardinal Francis Arinze
Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments

I met the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger when he was Archbishop of Munich, in 1977 or 1978, during a visit to Germany I made when I was Archbishop of Onitsha, in Nigeria. I had heard him spoken of as a theologian, but had never met him beforehand. I got to know him a lot better when I was nominated by John Paul II as President of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, in 1984 that is, and then in the role of member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
I would say that he is a great personality. In him I see a priest, a bishop, a cardinal and now a Pope dedicated to Jesus Christ and the Church; a person of faith, of Catholic faith without reduction, intelligent. Pope Benedict knows how to articulate the faith in clear, lucid form; in a form that works for the instructed and is not too difficult for the simple. When one has the good fortune to hear him, one remains enriched doctrinally and spiritually. He is a very intelligent person, but at the same time does not oppress the other, he knows how to listen. If the other truly presents a positive argument, he does not hesitate to accept it. I myself have seen him ready to change his position when he found himself faced with arguments that were truly persuasive.
It is often forgotten that the role of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is that of promoting and defending the faith and not of repressing dissenting theologians. Thus people imagined Cardinal Ratzinger only as a severe and meticulous referee ready to whistle an offside or disallow invalid goals… Well –if it’s right that there should be a referee to avoid the game finishing in “broken bottles” – the faith is something much more important than a game of football, and the figure of Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, cannot be reduced to that of a petulant referee. Enough to look at L’Osservatore Romano of 24 April with two dense pages of the bibliography he has produced in the last forty years. Truly impressive!
To the people who do not know him personally, I say: wait, listen, open your eyes, open your ears also, because a person cannot see if he closes his eyes, and cannot hear anything if he doesn’t want to hear.
Some are frightened of the truth, so that when they hear the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith being talked about they immediately say that they are suffering from a headache or high blood pressure, but I say to them don’t be afraid: when you read more of the texts of this Pope, you will feel, you will taste more the joy of being faithful witnesses of Jesus!
Pope Benedict XVI as theologian and cardinal wrote much about the liturgy, because «lex credendi, lex orandi»: the liturgy is the expression of faith and it is the faith that guides the liturgy. The liturgy is not the field of those who like to do things their own way, it is not a field for “do it yourself”. The liturgy is the official expression of the faith of the Church, the celebration of the mysteries of Christ. And Cardinal Ratzinger – now Pope Benedict – had rather clear ideas about the liturgy, and was not afraid to express them. This encourages us greatly in our work at the Congregation for Divine Worship, as might well be guessed. Those who are not afraid to open their ears, let them understand!

Bernard Francis Law

Bernard Francis Law


by Cardinal Bernard Francis Law
Archpriest of the Patriarchal Liberian Basilica
of Saint Mary Major

I knew the books of Joseph Ratzinger theologian, but my first meeting with the current Pontiff goes back to the ’eighties, when he was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and I was ecclesiastical delegate of the United States Episcopal Conference for the pastoral provision for members of the married Anglican clergy who wanted to enter the Catholic Church as priests. In practice I was the trait d’union between the Congregation that formally granted the Anglicans permission to be consecrated priests and the individual bishops who were disposed to give a pastoral role to these new priests of the Catholic Church. After the special Synod of 1985, I had the possibility of frequenting the then Cardinal Ratzinger more closely. As a consequence of that Synod in fact the Pope decided that an official Catechism of the Catholic Church should be prepared. John Paul II nominated Ratzinger president of the Commission to draw it up and I was nominated among the members of the Commission. On that occasion I had the opportunity of working side by side with Ratzinger. And that for me was an extraordinary experience, an enrichment of my life. In this regard I cannot forget a fact that binds me personally to the figure of the new Pope and that of his predecessor. It was 27 May 1994, the last day John Paul II spent in the Gemelli hospital, where he was recovering from a hip operation. That same morning the Pope – still in his room on the tenth floor of the hospital – received from the then Cardinal Ratzinger and myself the first copy, with the classic cover in white leather, of the English version of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
With Cardinal Ratzinger I also participated in numerous meetings of the various Congregations of the Roman Curia, during which I was impressed by his always valuable opinions. His capacity to listen, his ability to make a summary of the contributions that he heard during the course of the meetings, to eliminate confusion, was something wonderful.
Something that also always impressed me about Cardinal Ratzinger is that, listening to or reading all of his contributions, one always learns something and that he has a particular, extraordinary charism for teaching. Not only. The new Pope is also a man who lives his life without fear, because he puts all his trust in God, in Jesus and in the Blessed Virgin Mary. And this was also seen in the simple manner in which he accepted the humanly unheard of task of Bishop of Rome and successor of Peter.

Dionigi Tettamanzi

Dionigi Tettamanzi


by Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi
Archbishop of Milan

«You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church» (Mt 16.18). This saying of Jesus is the indestructible foundation and the deepest motivation that makes sense of what we have experienced in these last weeks. It is, in fact, this affirmation of Jesus that explains the love that the Christian people nurtures for the Pope, for every Pope.
The words of Jesus come at the end of a close and ever more absorbing conversation between Jesus and his disciples. They are the response and seal of the Lord Jesus Himself on the incisive profession of faith of the apostle Peter: «You are the Christ, the Son of the living God». This is the same extract from the Gospels that was read in the silence of the Sistine Chapel in the late afternoon of Tuesday, 19 April. Immediately after the new Pope had accepted his canonical election as Supreme Pontiff and had chosen to call himself Benedict XVI. What took place on a far off day in the decisive dialogue between Peter and Jesus, was in that precise moment renewed and realized yet once more between the same Lord Jesus and the new Peter, who had the name and face of Cardinal Ratzinger.
I am certain that the remarkable and strong personality of the new Pope will reveal itself bit by bit, in the unfolding of his pontificate.
There is a trait in the historical sequence and personality of the new Pope that I like to emphasize. It is the trait of fidelity to the Council and to its implementation.
And today it is still the Council that gives direction to the ministry just begun by the new Pope. He, in fact, in the wake of the late-lamented John Paul II, intends to continue along the path of the third millennium «carrying the Gospel in his hands, applied to the actual world through the authoritative rereading of Vatican Council II», as he said in the words pronounced in the Sistine Chapel the day after his election. Now, «where Peter is there is the Church of Milan», as one of my predecessors, Luigi Nazzari of Calabiana, used to sustain, taking up the known expression of our father Saint Ambrose («Ubi Petrus, ibi Ecclesia»). Yes, our Church also commits itself to moving in fidelity to Vatican Council II.
This Council, in fact, pointed with fresh vigor for the men of our time to Jesus Christ as «the light of mankind» and wished «ardently to illuminate all men with the light of Christ that is reflected in the face of the Church, announcing the Gospel to every creature» (Lumen Gentium, n. 1). As our Saint Ambrose said already: «The Church shines not with its own light, but with that of Christ and takes its own splendor from the Sun of Justice» (Esamerone IV.32).
Whoever fixes his look on Christ the Lord and in faith recognizes Him as the unique, universal and necessary Savior of man and of the world, is involved in the missionary dynamism of the Church: he becomes a witness to Him, the Risen One. As the Pope said on Sunday 24 April, «we exist to show God to men», to proclaim to all, with the word and our lives, that «there is nothing more beautiful than being reached, surprised by the Gospel, by Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than knowing Him and communicating to others our friendship with Him».
Whoever fixes his look on Christ the Lord, carries out his fervent wish, his precise will: ut unum sint (John 17.21), and walks on the path of ecumenism. And again: whoever fixes his look on Christ opens himself to inter-religious dialogue, opens himself – in truth and love – to man, to all men and to each one, in particular to the many people who live in the wasteland.
The request that the new Pope made and continues to make with singular insistence is striking: the request for the precious support of our prayers. «Pray for me»: this is the request, or rather the extremely personal and strong exhortation that Benedict XVI made to me also in the brief but very emotional moment of greeting and homage in the Sistine Chapel immediately after his election and again on the morning of Friday 22 April at the end of the meeting with all the cardinals. Kneeling in front of him, I told him of the closeness and affection of all of our Ambrosian church for him and referred to the prayers that accompanied him. And he addressed me, in a tone both firm and emotional at the same time, with these simple, but incisive, words: «And pray for me!».
May the Most Holy Mother of Jesus and of the Church, our Little Madonna, reach Benedict XVI, from the highest spire of the Cathedral, with her look and her smile and accompany him in his service as universal pastor.

Francis Eugene George

Francis Eugene George


by Cardinal Francis Eugene George
Archbishop of Chicago

Pope Benedict XVI is a man of faith, of Catholic faith, and he is also a man of prayer, who will have among his principal tasks that of confronting a process of aggressive secularization, particularly in the West.
I had the possibility of hearing the then Cardinal Ratzinger during a theological conference in Philadelphia, in the United States, before I was nominated bishop. I had already read his books, not only those on the doctrine of the Church, on fundamental theology and ecclesiology, but also those on spirituality, which were a help to me in prayer.When I became a bishop I had the possibility of meeting and talking with him on different occasions. He always gave me the impression of being a serene and capable man. Capable of listening and finding the points of agreement, putting off to another time discussion on diverging issues.When Benedict XVI appeared on the balcony of Saint Peter’s and made that expansive gesture to greet the crowd, I thought: this is the grace of state, formerly Cardinal Ratzinger was not so expansive. I must say that for me also the moment in which Cardinal Ratzinger accepted his election as Pope was very important. At that moment I thought: there, now we have a whole Church, not a committee of cardinals, but someone who has the power of the keys in his hands.I must say that I was struck by the choice of name, with the references to peace in the world (Pope Benedict XV) and the future of Europe (Saint Benedict of Norcia). I believe we will have a Pope who is profoundly sensitive to the cultural currents of today.Benedict XVI knows the history of the liturgy well, and is aware that with the so-called liturgical reform something was lost. He is undoubtedly a man of Vatican Council II, as was John Paul II. But forty years have passed, and we must look at the good and the bad in the reform. And perhaps the new Pope will bring balance to the contested field of the liturgy.
Paul Shan Kuo-hsi

Paul Shan Kuo-hsi


by Cardinal Paul Shan Kuo-hsi
Bishop of Kaohsiung (Taiwan)

I am very happy that we have a new Pope who is very similar in many aspects to his predecessor. It is an established fact that he was a great friend of John Paul II, his right-hand man, and so many of the great projects of the preceding Pontiff can be continued.
The new Pope is a man of profound faith. Thus even if in a secularized society there are all kinds of doctrinal winds and waves – that people are induced to follow, and often don’t know where to go anymore because they have lost direction, the sense of life, the meaning of things – this Pope with his profound faith in God and in Jesus, knows in a very clear way in what direction the Church and humanity are going.And then he is a great theologian, he was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and guardian of the faith of the Church for a quarter of a century; he has a very clear vision and perspective, something that the Church and humanity as a whole are in need of. I expect this new Pope will above all give a sense of security to the Church. He knows that in the last decades, following the winds of different doctrines and faiths, that Christians themselves have become “cafeteria” Christians, they pick and choose, they take one thing and refuse another, they no longer know that the faith has value in its fullness and asks to be taken in its totality, it can’t be cut into pieces without losing its authenticity. This Pope can give us the certainty of faith.In the second place, Pope Benedict can bring light and hope to humanity. Many young people seek a guide for their future, a light, a hope that neither their teachers nor their governments can offer. There is great confusion, and the Pope can offer a light, not his own, but that of the Lord Jesus, who said of himself: «I am the light of the world; whoever follows me, will not walk in the darkness», because only in Jesus Christ do we have hope and light. Thirdly, his name, Benedict, is beautiful, that of the patron saint of Western Europe. John Paul II came from Eastern Europe, which he freed from atheistic communism. Today Western Europe is very secularized and the faith greatly weakened. As Saint Benedict and his monks maintained the Christian culture and tradition in Europe during the barbarian invasions, so Pope Benedict can revitalize the traditions and the roots of European culture and society.We know, too, that in 1914, at the beginning of the First World War, Pope Benedict XV was elected who did not want and did not love the war, but constantly sought peace and reconciliation. And we recall also that he wrote – and the impact that it had was great – the celebrated Apostolic Letter Maximum illud to promote missionary activities, among which the creation and formation of native clergy in the mission lands. This Pope also will do his utmost for the missions and for new local vocations; he will bring a greater evangelization to the world. I hope that, in taking care of the mission lands, he will follow his predecessor John Paul II who, in 1995 in Manila, talking to the Federation of the Episcopal Conferences of Asia, said that the third millennium would be that of the evangelization of Asia, and he repeated this in his apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in Asia, after the Synod of Asian bishops. For Pope Wojtyla, the first millennium had seen the evangelization of the Mediterranean, the second that of the Americas, north and south, and of part of Africa, and therefore the third millennium would be reserved for Asia. I hope that this was not only his wish or his prayer, but also a prophecy that I hope the new Pope can also adhere to. Finally, I hope that under the guidance of Pope Benedict XVI theologians can find new terms to present our faith in an acceptable manner to the modern world, and comprehensibly to ordinary people.I offer these hopes of mine to the new Pope.
Theodore Edgar McCarrick

Theodore Edgar McCarrick


by Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick
Archbishop of Washington

I think we are all really delighted that the Lord has given us this new Pope, Pope Benedict XVI. I think that the fact that the Conclave ended so quickly is that we were so impressed by this good man not only in the way he preached for our beloved Holy Father John Paul II, and not only by the way he carried out, humbly, gently, graciously, but with great goodness and with great dignity, his role as Dean of the Sacred College, during the days between the death of the Holy Father and the Conclave. But also being with him we began to recall all the extraordinary things that he has done for the Church in the last 25 years at the side of the Holy Father, that he was in so wonderful a way the Holy Father’s theologian and the guardian of the doctrine of the Church, which was so important to John Paul II and so important to all of us. In their wisdom he and the Holy Father were a great team working together for the good of the Church and for the guidance of the faithful. I think that we came to remember as we watched him and listened to him that he is not just a good theologian but a man of faith.
In my own life I remember having read his spiritual books, books of meditations, books that not only reveal his wisdom and brilliance but also his humility, his piety and his own personal goodness. So that when we came to choose a new Pope, the first Pope to be elected in the third millennium, we found ourselves in the presence of a man who had impressed us by his leadership over three weeks and who reminded us by his goodness and by his holiness of the extraordinary gifts that he had already given to the Church, when he stood at the side of Pope John Paul II all those years. In today’s world he seemed to have the strength and the grace needed to guide us in the future. This is why we all thought that the Holy Spirit had said to us: this is your man, choose him and follow him and be joyful in the fact that I have given you this new leader as your shepherd. Be faithful to him as you have tried to be to his predecessors.In the United States we have a custom when the new president is elected, he gives a State of the Union address and says this is where I am, this is where I think we are, this is where we’re going. I think the Holy Father did the same thing with great forethought in his first homily on 20 April. It could not have been prepared long beforehand because he did not know he was going to be Pope, but it was as if the Holy Spirit was speaking to him and saying: «Tell them what the Church has need of as it moves forward». And then all the things he mentions and especially his willingness to build on the works of the Second Vatican Council, his willingness to build on those great documents. We’ve always realized that John Paul II was one of the great Fathers of the Council and played a major role in it, though Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, also played a major role as one of the great theologians of the Council. How blessed we are to have two men who can authentically interpret the Council for us and authentically lead us into following the great ideas, the great graces, the great visions of the Second Vatican Council. So I think we are very blessed in having this very good man. Sometimes the media, (not 30Days of course!), puts a spin on somebody and oftentimes the spin on Cardinal Ratzinger was that he was a hard man, a strong man, not a man who worked with others. Well in the three weeks that we lived with him every day, we have seen his collegiality and his collaboration and his willingness to work with others and his kindness: there’s great kindness and great humility in him, in dealing with all his brother cardinals. We must thank God for having him as Pope, and I pray that the Lord will continue to bless him in his task as he leads the great flock of this great Catholic Church into the years that lie ahead. The Pope explained to us that he had chosen the name Benedict because Pope Benedict XV was a man who worked for peace and for the reconciliation of the peoples of the world lacerated by the horrible First World War. And then he said he chose it because Saint Benedict was one of the great patrons of Europe, Europe that now must come together, to move on the right road into the years ahead. When I heard the name I thought for us it’s “Benedictus”, because he will be a blessing to the Church, a blessing to all of us. Not that he claimed to be. He will be. He will be a blessing for us in this very critical time in the life of the Church and the life of the world.

Desmond Connell

Desmond Connell


by Cardinal Desmond Connell
Archbishop Emeritus of Dublin

The election of Benedict XVI made a very good impression on me.
At the announcement of Cardinal Medina, some people probably wondered whether Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, would be a pastor or rather a theologian, or perhaps a man withdrawn from contact with ordinary people. And what we have seen since his election shows that he is a true pastor. I was deeply moved by his homily on the day of the inauguration of his ministry, particularly by the use of the image of the wasteland. Many people, for different reasons, including poverty and abandonment, are living in the wasteland of modern, secular society. It seemed to me that in the words of the Holy Father there was a wonderful compassion and understanding of the suffering of people in today’s world. I saw the Pope opening his heart to the suffering. Now I was also very impressed by the concerns that he has at heart. He is anxious to develop collegiality. I think that this caused some surprise, but it is clear that he is anxious to find a way forward to develop what the Second Vatican Council wanted. It is quite clear that like John Paul II he is a man of the Second Vatican Council and he does want to establish the thinking of the Second Vatican Council deeply within the Church. He spoke also about his concerns for peace and reconciliation in the world. He is following the example of his predecessor Benedict XV who during the First World War made the first great steps on the part of the Holy See to be involved in the search for the peace and reconciliation required in order to make life livable. Pope Benedict XVI is also greatly involved in the development of the ecumenic mission of the Church, because it is a fundamental part of the seeking for that unity for which Christ prayed at the Last Supper. These are some of my first thoughts.

José da Cruz Policarpo

José da Cruz Policarpo


by Cardinal José da Cruz Policarpo
Patriarch of Lisbon

Joseph Ratzinger was among the most well-known cardinals. The demanding responsibility of the mission he carried out, in his almost twenty-four years as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, placed him at the center of all the live questions of creative theology, always seeking a synthesis between the faith of the Church, cultures and the problems of the contemporary world. In this mission he knew how to reconcile openness in dialogue with firmness in the affirmation of the faith. But he was not spared criticism that, presented in a one-sided way by the media, tended to give him a particular image.
His election faces the Church and the world with a dilemma: will we classify a pontificate, just begun, by beginning with a stigmatized image from the media, incomplete and not always exact, or will we accept the change that the Spirit of God alone will operate?This change took place in us cardinal electors, moving us strongly, at the moment when we passed from fulfilling an electoral act – during which he was still one of us – to bowing in front of him, in deference and faith, promising him fidelity and obedience, because he was the pastor who, through our vote, God had just placed at the head of His Church.His capacity to surprise us was revealed immediately in the name he chose: Benedict.The day before the death of John Paul II, the new Pope was in Subiaco, in the sanctuary of Saint Benedict, patron and great evangelizer of Europe. In the great crisis of civilization following the fall of the Roman Empire, the Church had shown that, in terms of the evangelization of Europe, it is always possible to begin again, because Jesus Christ brings with Him a hope that traces the supreme sense of life and of the history of civilization.The wish to develop the missionary dimension of the Church was also a historical trait of a great Pope at the beginning of the 20th century: Benedict XV. The new Pope wanted to explain immediately to the cardinals gathered in the Sistine Chapel that it was the figure and action of Benedict XV himself that had inspired him in the choice of this name. Benedict XV was the Pope of the missions, the Pope of peace, the man who built bridges.Saint Benedict, patron of Europe, and the great Pope who was Benedict XV led the new Pope therefore to the selection of a name that signifies a plan of the Church, a Church at the service of man and at the same time teacher of humanity, because sacrament of Jesus Christ.In his first homily, the day after his election, he outlined with firmness the path to be followed in these new times of mission. He emphasized the unity of Christians, a way to be followed with «concrete acts that penetrate souls and move consciences»; inter-religious and intercultural dialogue, and collaboration with those who decide the destinies of the world, in the seeking of peace and the edification of a world with a human face.He wished to indicate Vatican Council II «as a compass by which to find our bearing», and restated his «decisive wish to continue in the commitment of implementing Vatican Council II». Vatican II was such a huge development, a synthesis so great in all the fields of ecclesiological thought, that many aspects have still to be deepened and developed, not in a theoretic sense, but rather so as to draw from it all the consequences for the action and pastoral attitude of the Church in the contemporary world. From a doctrinal point of view, for instance, there are some points that can be developed, such as that of working out the category of Church as sign of salvation. The word “sign” is a word tied to the sacramental nature of the Church: to say that the Church is, in all its being, in all its historical reality, a sign for the world, this has not yet been developed as far as it could be. In the same way, saying that the Church has the obligation to read the signs of the times, to be open to the history of humanity interpreting with wisdom all that human reality is, and discerning in it what can be a sign of the Kingdom of God.Therefore that Benedict XVI has indicated the development of Vatican II, down to the ultimate consequences, is very important. And if changes are possible and necessary in some area of the pastoral ministry – wisely interpreting all that is human reality and expressing the goodness and mercy of the Church – he, because of his historical authority and knowledge of the most delicate questions inherent to the life of the Church, is undoubtedly the person who above all others can do so.Thus Benedict XVI leaves wide open all the doors opened by John Paul II, saying to the world that the Church exists for the good of man and of humanity.
Cormac Murphy-O’Connor

Cormac Murphy-O’Connor


by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor
Archbishop of Westminister

If you ask me what I think about the new Pope, I confess that I feel very content, very at peace. It’s strange, but when someone is elected Pope, there is a sense of completeness about what the cardinals have done, and what the Church has fulfilled under the action of the Holy Spirit.
And so there’s a certain satisfaction that the Church, through the cardinals, has elected this man, who I’m absolutely certain has the shoulders to carry the burden of Peter. And I can’t think of any other man amongst the cardinals who’d be as well able to meet the challenges of modernity and the opportunities present in the world today. I feel at peace too because, during those days between the death of a Pope and the election of another, there’s a sense of living in incompleteness, with the sensation, that is, that some of the words of Christ have not been fulfilled in terms of the governance of the Church. It is a period of hope, prayer, waiting, as when the apostles and disciples were waiting for Pentecost. So that when eventually all the processes have been gone through, and the new Pope is elected, there’s a sense of being at peace again, because the Church, now with Peter and the apostles, can continue its mission of pastoral guidance, and - please God - under this new Pope, stimulating itself to renew the ever present task of evangelization. This allows the Church to be at peace.
Each time I met the Pope when he was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I always found him courteous, fair, intelligent, and a deeply spiritual man, always open to dialogue, and especially a great listener. So these are the qualities that Joseph Ratzinger had as a cardinal, qualities that he now brings to a wider field. This wider role has become evident already in what he said both in the homilies he gave to the cardinals, and especially that in his mass of inauguration when he spoke in his homily of what it meant to be a shepherd, what it meant to have the Fisherman’s ring and to put out into the deep, always listening to the Word of God, always listening for the voice of Christ in the Church, both amongst the bishops and all the People of God.
In a certain sense he is a new man, with the same qualities but brought to a different sphere. I find this very exciting for the Church and also for us in Europe.
I think there are many tasks that face the Church, - the dialogue with Islam, solidarity with the poor, the defense of life. But for us in Europe the de-christianization of Europe is a great challenge. Europe is the heart of the faith, the culture most historically marked by the faith. The problem the Church now faces is: how can we be present in Europe?
Our Lord uses two images: the city on the hill and the leaven in the mass. We have need of both images. You can have a Church that’s strong, the city on the hill; you can have a Church that’s more the leaven in the mass, silently witnessing in the communities, the Eucharistic communities, the communities of the world.
So the family of the Church will find, I think, with Pope Benedict, new ways of expressing its own community of faith, so as to be more vibrant, and to live with secularism in a way that meets it intelligently, faithfully and constructively.
A lot of people say that secularism has become aggressive in Europe. It is, but it is also the type of secularism that arises out of a kind of ignorance of things - this is particularly true in Great Britain - that are of the faith. In this context you have to ask the Holy Spirit how the Gospel can be communicated in a way that responds to the needs of people, how it can be what people need to hear said, how it can be ‘something new’, - because, in the final reckoning, that is what the Gospel is. It communicates the newness of the meaning of life, hope and energy, because those are the things that people look for. It communicates meaning: the meaning of my life, our life, and also the hope of another life. These are things that need to be spoken of and witnessed to always in a new way. Pope Benedict, coming from Central Europe, is well aware of this. He made it clear that relativism leads nowhere. It leads to the domination of the ego, one’s own desires, and not to the common good of society. And relativism is so common today, everything is relative to one’s own wishes, one’s own desires, one’s own truth. As Pope John Paul made clear in Veritatis splendor and in Fides et ratio, there is an objectivity about right and about wrong and about God’s plan for the world, His hope and the destiny of the people He created and loved. These things are not relative, they are objective, they are true; and the Catholic Church teaches them because they’re true. That conviction is the reason for today’s battle: objective truth, which is the truth of God against those kinds of truths that aren’t truths, because they are relative only to personal convictions.
Pope Benedictus is not just well aware of this but understands that particular challenge of the Church perhaps better than anybody else. He’s a very prayerful and humble man; in his homily he said he needs our prayers, he needs the prayers of all the People of God.
So I am very hopeful for the new pontificate and I have a great admiration, - always have had - for Pope Benedict. We elected him because we recognized these qualities in him, notwithstanding the fact that he was older than some of us. The question that we asked ourselves was: does Ratzinger have the qualities that we think the shepherd of the flock, Peter, needs? We certainly thought he had, and that’s how it all turned out. I’m very content.

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