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ND priests, officials praise conclave’s vote

Justin Tardiff | Wednesday, April 20, 2005

In his first appearance as pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, stepped onto the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome amidst deafening cheers and declared himself “a simple, humble worker,” a thought echoed Tues-day by officials and priests at Notre Dame. “I know he’s a humble man. I know he’s a holy man and a man of prayer. I know he’s very intelligent,” said Father Richard Warner, director of Campus Ministry. “I think he’s going to carry out his ministry as Vicar of Christ with great integrity.” Benedict XVI, 78, former dean of the College of Cardinals, was elected 265th pope Tuesday. Ratzinger was a very close confidant of Pope John Paul II and was one of the most powerful figures in the Vatican under the former pope.University President Father Edward Malloy blessed the newly-elected pope in a statement released by Notre Dame.”On behalf of the Notre Dame community, I congratulate our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI,” Malloy said. “We wish God’s blessings on him as he begins this central ministry of leadership and service in the Roman Catholic Church. We will continue to pray for him and with him in the days and months ahead.”Some members of the Notre Dame community were shocked, yet enthusiastic, about the choice of Ratzinger as the next pope.”I’m very, very excited. I’m surprised,” said Fisher rector Father Robert Moss. “He would not have been the one I would have thought would have been chosen, but I certainly think it’s the work of the Holy Spirit.” Though the cardinals only began their deliberations Monday, University President Emeritus Father Theodore Hesburgh said he is confident that their choice was a good one.”I can imagine that the Holy Spirit was left to guide the Church. I think they made the right choice,” Hesburgh said. “All I know is if he’s elected by the power of the Holy Spirit, that’s good enough for me.”In the early 1960s, Hesburgh invited Ratzinger, then a promising theologian in Munich, Germany, to join the Notre Dame community.”I was trying hard to build up the theology department, so I invited him to come over and join the faculty,” Hesburgh said.Ratzinger, who Hesburgh recalled as having very bad English at the time, declined the offer.”I never realized I invited the future pope to join our faculty,” Hesburgh said.Warner and Malloy met with the then Cardinal Ratzinger together in his Rome office a few years ago for about an hour. “He knew a lot about Notre Dame,” Warner said. “He was shy, but he was a very agreeable person. He was bright and he knew a lot about [the University].”Warner said that as a former professor, Ratzinger has a good deal of knowledge about Catholic higher education.”He was most gracious and spoke about the essential role of Catholic higher education in the life of the Church,” Malloy said of the meeting.Following the April 2 death of Pope John Paul II, the possibility arose that his successor would hail from a Third World country. At the center of the discussion was Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria, who will receive an honorary degree from Notre Dame on May 15 and wielded great influence in promoting inter-religious dialogue. However, there is still an opportunity for cardinals from countries such as Africa to establish their place in the Catholic Church for the future, several priests said.”In all honesty, the Church in Africa is so young. It’s only been 125 years,” Warner said. “That does not sound young, but it does if you talk about 2,000 years.””It’s not an Italian [pope]. That’s a step to broadening the Church,” Moss added. “I think the time for the Third World will certainly come.”Bishop John D’Arcy of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend expressed his excitement with the election of Ratzinger in a press conference Tuesday.”He’ll be strong on issues but kind and gracious with those who disagree with him,” D’Arcy said, according to the South Bend Tribune. “I think he’ll teach (doctrine) and reinforce it and explain it well and that he’ll be very conscious of the currents of the times. …I think he’ll put a lot of emphasis on natural law, the law that’s written in our hearts.” D’Arcy met with Ratzinger on many occasions during visits to Rome, most recently in June 2004, according to the Tribune. Though some were surprised by the quick election, many feel that the Holy Spirit guided the conclave’s decision.”I think it shows a consensus, a sense of unity, a desire on the part of the cardinals to have a man of theology,” D’Arcy said.”He was one of the closest to John Paul II. It will be a wonderful continuation,” Moss said. “I truly believe it’s the Holy Spirit’s choice.”As Benedict XVI assumes the role of pope, many hope that John Paul II’s concern for the entire Catholic world community will continue.”I think that what we need right now is a bridge-builder. That is what a pontiff is,” said Father Paul Doyle. “That is what we need right now because the world seems to be splintering into its various factions. I m praying that this is what he turned out to be.”