THE ELECTION of German Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger as the new Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church has been welcomed by the UST community.

Vice-Rector for Religious Affairs Fr. Rodel Aligan, O.P. said the Dominican community is glad to receive the new pope.

“Whoever is leading the church, we accept,” he told the Varsitarian.

College of Fine Arts and Design Regent Fr. Regino Cortes, O.P., who was in Rome at the time of John Paul II’s death, said he was not surprised Cardinal Ratzinger was elected as pope.

“Everybody was speculating about who would the next pope be, but about 40 cardinals were already supporting Ratzinger coming into the conclave,” said Cortes, a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission.

For Institute of Religion director Fr. Clarence Marquez, O.P., Ratzinger’s election was unexpected.

“I did not expect (Ratzinger’s election), but perhaps the Holy Spirit has its reasons that I accept and respect,” he said. “We (priests) submit in obedience and support to the Holy Father.”

The adage, “When a cardinal comes into a conclave a pope, he comes out the conclave a cardinal,” did not apply in this case, according to UST officials, since Ratzinger was a top bet by the cardinals and the laity alike. The last time this incident happened was the election of Paul VI in 1963.

Vatican observers consider the papacy of Benedict XVI as a continuation of John Paul II’s legacy. Fr. Cortes said an indication of this is Benedict’s eagerness to attend the World Youth Day at Cologne, Germany in October. “He is dedicated in continuing John Paul II’s legacy of helping the youth,” he said.

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Fr. Cortes added that Benedict XVI is also keen in uniting people of different faiths as his predecessor started. “Inter-faith dialogues will still continue in this papacy,” he said. “Everybody likes to improve the human condition, everybody wants to eradicate poverty. It’s the same values.”

Incoming Accountancy junior Joseph Estrada and Mechanical Engineering junior Roan Marburt Gomez hope Benedict XVI “would be able to follow the footsteps of John Paul II in terms of uniting everybody despite diversity.”

Nursing alumna April Joy Ong does not believe that the new Pope is conservative and thinks that all the talks on the new pope being conservative are “just out of context.”

Benedict XVI has expressed his plan to continue the agenda which the late John Paul II started. Among his first acts were the confirmation of Angelo Cardinal Sodano as Vatican Secretary of State, and the retention of some of the posts of John Paul II’s cabinet, including Fr. Cortes’ membership in the Pontifical Biblical Commission.

Rigid, yet open

As Prefect of the influential Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith since 1981, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger took a more traditional interpretation of Church doctrines and dismissed alternative views on issues such as the ordination of women-priests and homosexuality.

In that post, he became known as “Cardinal No,” for his moves to eliminate liberation theology movements and religious pluralism, Vatican observers said.

Central Student Council (CSC) president John Voltaire Almeda believes an “ultra-conservative” pope is not what the Catholic Church needs now.

“I feel that if you’re a conservative you’d just be dismissing new issues outright, instead of dealing with them, like Pope John Paul II, who dismissed the issues on women-priests and priests getting married. “

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Marquez said that based on the writings of Ratzinger, the issues on women-priests, gay marriages, and other similar matters will again take the backseat.

“These issues are the signs of the times, it is saying something to the church and the church has to listen,” he said. “If our theology is right on the signs of the times, any pope, whether it’s Benedict XVI or ‘John Paul III’, the Vatican needs to listen, at least participate in the dialogue.”

But for Fr. Cortes, the Pope’s firm stance on moral issues does not mean he is closed-minded.

“When we say that he is solid with the Catholic doctrine, what we mean is if he is convinced that this is the whole truth then he sticks to what he wants,” he said. “It does not mean that he is closed to new ideas.”

Marquez said one should take the Pope’s rigidity in another perspective.

“For some rigidity may be a turn-off, but we should look at it as firmness,” he explained.

Nevertheless, the Pope’s “rigid” image may just work in favor of the church, according to Campus Ministry office assistant Albert Loytero. “I think we need a pope who is strict and rigid to have discipline and direction,” he said. “He is not closed-minded as some perceive him to be because he is aware of the feedback towards him.”

Looking ahead

A man of reason and intellect, Ratzinger is considered one of the best theologians today. Some believe that he greatly influenced the encyclicals of John Paul II. “I could see more profound encyclicals because Ratzinger is an intellectual man,” Fr. Cortes said.

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However, his age (78) limits him from traveling like John Paul II, who was elected at the age of 58. Some observers said that one should also look into the health of the new Pope. Allen said Benedict XVI’s health is okay, despite a brain hemorrhage he suffered in 1991, but “it is unlikely to see another 26-year pontificate.”

Nevertheless, reports say the Pope has promised to visit the Philippines anytime soon.

When asked if Ratzinger’s age played a factor in the election as pope, Fr. Cortes said it is difficult to read the cardinals’ mind. “In some speculations, the contenders lacked the caliber of Pope John Paul II’s papacy,” he added

Ratzinger was born on April 16, 1927 in Marktl Am Inn, Germany. During his seminary days in 1943, he was drafted into the anti-aircraft corps of the Nazi, but as the Allies drew closer to Germany, he deserted the corps and went back to his hometown in Traunstein.

In 1951, he was ordained together with his brother Georg. He was named Archbishop of Munich and Freising in 1977 and elevated to the position of Cardinal by Pope Paul VI the same year. He was appointed dean of the College of Cardinals in 2002.

Benedict XVI was elected last April 20 in one of the shortest conclaves in recent history— two days after four rounds of balloting. Miko L. Morelos and Joanarc T. Villaflor

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