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Notre Dame community gathers at Basilica to celebrate new pontiff’s election

Justin Tardiff | Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Although it was the fleeting late afternoon sun that shone luminously through the towering stained glass windows, a new day was just beginning at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart – and across the entire world.Notre Dame celebrated the selection of German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as the 265th pope of the Catholic Church with a Mass of Thanksgiving Tuesday. Director of Campus Ministry Father Richard Warner presided over the service held in honor of the 78 year-old cardinal, who assumed the papal name Benedict XVI.Amid sacred music performed by the Notre Dame folk and handbell choirs, Warner acknowledged a special feeling of excitement upon the announcement of the new pontiff. A conclave of 115 cardinals selected Ratzinger after just two days of deliberation.”It was wonderful to see the people of Rome and visitors from across the world run into St. Peter’s Square to see the first appearance of the new pope,” Warner said in his homily. “Today, as people of faith, we look forward to the ministry of Pope Benedict XVI.”Tens of thousands of worshippers gathered at the Vatican to hear the official proclamation of the new papacy. Similarly, more than 400 students, faculty and members of the South Bend community gathered at Sacred Heart Basilica to pray for the longevity and success of Benedict XVI.”The beginning of a new papacy is always an exciting time for the Church,” Warner said. “We believe the Holy Spirit not only guided the choice of Pope Benedict XVI, but will also continue to guide the Church in the third millennium.” A symbolic representation of a new era in Catholic Church history, a large bouquet of white and yellow flowers encircled a photograph of the Benedict XVI in front of the altar. Just weeks ago, an image of the late Pope John Paul II was situated in that exact location.Like his predecessor, Benedict XVI has a history with Notre Dame. Warner said he, along with University President Father Edward Malloy, had the distinct pleasure of meeting and speaking with Ratzinger during a past visit to the Vatican. Warner called the newly-named pontiff a “truly holy man” and a “man of deep faith.””He was knowledgeable about the University of Notre Dame and committed to the Catholic Church’s mission of higher education,” Warner said.Warner said he and Malloy had even invited the German cardinal to speak and receive an honorary degree at Notre Dame. Unfortunately, they were refused the visit.”Cardinal Ratzinger wanted to read as much as he could – and travel as little as he could,” said Warner, inciting hearty laughter from the Basilica crowd.In his new role, the former theological adviser to John Paul II will have to grow accustomed to globe-trotting in the name of the Catholic Church. Warner said one of the pope’s objectives will be to fight nonreligious forces of influence.”We will see and be led in a struggle to counteract secularism, which often counters the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Warner said. “We will pray everyday for the success of this papacy because it is also the success of [the Church.]”In response to his first papal blessing, the throng of supporters gathered at the Vatican for Benedict XVI chanted, “Viva il papa.” Warner echoed their very sentiments some seven hours later at the conclusion of the Mass.”Let us pray for a long and wonderful papacy,” Warner said. “Long live Pope Benedict XVI.”