The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Ratzinger elected new pope

Justin Tardiff | Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The news that German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had been chosen as the 265th pope hit Notre Dame quickly Tuesday, sparking conversation and questions soon after the trademark white smoke announced the cardinals’ choice.Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s professors shared their opinions on the conclave’s decision, commenting on the mystery and logic behind the choice, as well as the Church Ratzinger will face.Theology professor Lawr-ence Cunningham said Ratzinger was “not a sure choice.””He was talked about very much in the press prior to the time of the conclave,” Cunningham said, adding that he had spoken with faculty at the University of Lublin, a Catholic university in Poland, who told him all the academics in Poland thought Ratzinger would be chosen as the next pope.But Cunningham said he expected Ratzinger to be the “pope-maker” instead of the pope, given his substantial influence on the conclave.Law professor Vincent Rougeau said that while he didn’t know exactly why Ratzinger was picked, the conclave made “a conservative choice, theologically and practically.””They picked the classic insider – very close to the current pope, very much a Vatican insider,” Rougeau said.He said the choice of Ratzinger over a candidate from the Third World would maintain the current theological direction without introducing new issues to the papacy.The idea of a Third World pope “generated interest, but uncertainty,” Rougeau said.Cunningham said the failure to choose a pope from the Third World was not due to a lack of boldness on the conclave’s part, since John Paul II was the first Polish pope after 450 years of Italian pontiffs and Ratzinger will be the first German pope since the early 11th century.While picking a pope with a third world background would have “showed the Catholicity of the Church in a dramatic way,” Cunningham said Ratzinger is not naïve and will be sensitive to the needs of the world’s developing areas.Sister Kathleen Dolphin, director of the Center for Spirituality at Saint Mary’s, said she was concerned when she heard the name Ratzinger announced because he is perceived to be a “divisive figure” by many people in the Catholic Church.Cunningham said while he would not describe Ratzinger as “controversial,” the new pope’s hard-line stances could be troubling to some believers.”I suppose some people would prefer him not to be elected because of his conservative reputation,” Cunningham said.Neither Rou-geau nor Cunningham thought Pope John Paul II had been officially grooming Ratzinger, his closest advisor and confidante, to take over the papacy.”If he were, we wouldn’t have known that anyway,” Cunningham said.Cunningham and Dolphin both praised Ratzinger’s strong theological background.”He’s a very smart guy and a great theologian,” Cunn-ingham said. “Ratzinger was very important at the Second Vatican Council.”Dolphin described Ratz-inger’s outstanding scholarship as a positive sign for the Church, but said academic accomplishments alone will not be enough to lead the world’s Catholics.”Now he has to be a pastor, not just a scholar … and I hope he will take his role as pastor as seriously as he took his role a scholar,” Dolphin said.Despite Dolphin’s apprehension about the conclave’s decision, she was encouraged when she heard the name the new pope chose for himself, Benedict XVI. “We received signals in his choice of name which shed some light on how he might proceed,” Dolphin said.The previous Benedict, Pope Benedict XV, headed the Catholic Church from 1914 to 1922 and worked hard to keep Europe from slipping into what eventually became known as the Great War, World War I. “By choosing that name, what the new pope is saying is he wants to be a peacemaker among divided factions within the Church” and within the world community, Dolphin said.Cunningham took a different stance on the new pope’s choice of name.”A lot of people say he wants people to think of the last Benedict, Benedict XV,” Cunningham said. “I myself think he chose the name because of St. Benedict, the founder of Western monasticism and the patron saint of Europe.”This name would reflect the new pope’s intention to focus on Europe – western Europe in particular – and that region’s issues of concern, such as declining church attendance and a sense of demoralization.Cunningham also discussed the spread of Islam in western Europe, citing the French city of Marseille, which has reached a 17 percent Muslim population in recent years, as an example.”That whole issue will greatly affect the Church,” he said.In a talk given after the death of Pope John Paul II, R. Scott Appleby, professor of history and director of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, said the next pope would face four main challenges during his papacy.The first challenge Appleby cited was collegiality, explaining that while Pope John Paul II deserves praise, criticism has been leveled against him for his leadership style.’There’s been one superstar in the past 26 years, and it’s John Paul II,” Appleby said, something that conflicts with Vatican II calling the Church back to the collegial model and emphasizing local leadership.”The Church is so internally plural, diversified,” Appleby said. “What needs to happen is a pope who will share the leadership, scatter the stardust all around.”Appleby said another challenge John Paul II’s successor will face is the question of Islam.Islam, a growing religion with a following that slightly surpasses Roman Catholicism in numbers, is quickly becoming a world power, Appleby said.”We need a pope that understands that world, that can bring people to reach out in dialogue,” he said.The challenge of science and technology was the third Appleby listed.”We are entering a phase where there’s not much consensus about what life is,” he said, “If we don’t improve on Catholic tradition, our leading intellectuals will not be up to speed.”Appleby finished by discussing the challenge of faith, explaining that the pope must deal with the complexity of a both increasingly religious and increasingly secular world.”We’re entering a world where secularity and religion are entering into new modes of dynamics,” Appleby said. “What’s more challenging and complex is the coexistence of secular and religious faith in individual and public forums.”The Observer was unable to contact Appleby Tuesday.