BEFORE the bells tolled and the new pope came out of the central window of St. Peter’s Basilica, I was one of the billion Catholics who were dazed at the moment. Excited but at the same time nervous, I waited to know the identity of the new pope.

I am one of those expecting and hoping that the new Pontiff will follow John Paul II’s footsteps. From the time Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger became a leading papabile, his life started to be an open book. But I initially had reservations on Ratzinger’s capacity to be the next leader of the Church.

Known as the Vatican’s doctrinal enforcer, Ratzinger had been with the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith for almost 24 years. While in service, he was a strict theologian, iron-fisted in opposing unorthodox claims.

It was just lately that I’ve heard enough good things about him as a determined and devoted pastor. I discovered then that he was the fitting choice as new pope.

Reading the life story of the Pope, I came to know that he was formerly a very radical theologian while a professor in the University of Tubingen. He then became the theological consultant to Joseph Cardinal Frings in the Second Vatican Council. Having seen through the years the effects of his own “progressiveness,” I became confident of his changing perspectives. A “convert” himself, he must be a man who knows what he is doing and where he will lead us. Now that he is already Benedict XVI, I envision him as a benevolent father drawing his children to the right path.

Although marked with unique personalities, Pope Benedict XVI and John Paul II share the same value for life. But despite a resemblance in ideology, I realize that it’s unfair to compare them with each other. Part of showing my respect for the Pope is giving him a chance to express himself without pitting him against hid predecessor.John Paul II’s papacy may be a tough act to follow but the papacy is not a competition, but a continuation of the rich legacy of the previous pontificate and of all popes before Benedict XVI. The papacy, after all, should be a solid rock of faith to outlast the turmoils of change.

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To save or to stop?

The Church is faced with so many challenges but its future does not only depend on Pope Benedict XVI. What I must do to help the Church is to pray for the Pope, and to be a humble servant like the Holy Father himself.

Prayer: Dear Lord, Thank You for always guiding the Church. May Your light shine and cleanse our hearts and minds from doubts and fears of what the future holds. We trust in Your power and great love that nothing will harm us if we will just follow Your will. Help us in combating evil together with Your servant, Pope Benedict XVI. Amen.

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