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Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany Elected Pope


April 19, 2005/Naharnet

The giant bells of St Peter's Basilica rang out Tuesday, confirming to tens of thousands of ecstatic pilgrims that cardinals had elected a new pope in the first conclave of the third millennium. The bells put to an end any uncertainty, after white smoke had begun billowing out of the chimney above the Sistine Chapel

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, a longtime guardian of doctrinal orthodoxy, was elected the new pope Tuesday evening in the first Roman Catholic conclave of the new millennium. He chose the name Pope Benedict XVI and called himself "a simple, humble worker."

Ratzinger emerged onto the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica, where he waved to a wildly cheering crowd of tens of thousands and gave his first blessing as pope. Other cardinals clad in their crimson robes came out on other balconies to watch him.

Pilgrims chanted "Benedict! Benedict!" as the church's 265th pontiff appeared after one of the fastest papal conclaves of the past century.

"Dear brothers and sisters, after the great Pope John Paul II, the cardinals have elected me -- a simple, humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord," he said after being introduced by Chilean Cardinal Jorge Arturo Medina Estivez.

"The fact that the Lord can work and act even with insufficient means consoles me, and above all I entrust myself to your prayers," the new pope said. "I entrust myself to your prayers."

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.

Ratzinger is the first Germanic pope in roughly 1,000 years. There were at least three German popes in the 11th century.

The new pope had gone into the conclave with the most buzz among two dozen leading candidates. He had impressed many faithful with his stirring homily at the funeral of John Paul II, who died April 2 at age 84.

White smoke poured from the Sistine Chapel and bells tolled earlier to announce the conclave had produced a pope. Flag-waving pilgrims in St. Peter's Square chanted: "Viva il Papa!" or "Long live the pope!"

The bells rang after a confusing smoke signal that Vatican Radio initially suggested was black but then declared was too difficult to call. White smoke is used to announce a pope's election to the world.

It was one of the fastest elections in the past century: Pope Pius XII was elected in 1939 in three ballots on one day, while Pope John Paul I was elected in 1978 in four ballots in one day. The new pope was elected after either four or five ballots over two days.

"It's only been 24 hours, surprising how fast he was elected," Vatican Radio said, commenting on how the new pope was elected after just four or five ballots.

More pilgrims were pouring into St. Peter's Square, their eyes fixed on the burgundy-draped balcony of St. Peter's Basilica where the new pope's name was to be read out and the pontiff himself introduced. 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 in size.(AP)