German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has been elected the 265th pope of the
Catholic Church. The 78-year-old hard-line theologian who served as
John Paul II’s “defender of the faith” will become Pope Benedict XVI.

At
5:50 yesterday afternoon (Rome time), “wisps of white smoke puffed from
the chimney above the Sistine Chapel, where the cardinals were meeting,
signaling that the new pope had been chosen only a day after the secret
conclave began,” reports The New York Times
. But his name wasn’t announced until nearly an hour later – “after the
great bell at St. Peter’s tolled, with tension rising in the swelling
crowd, until the scarlet curtain over the central balcony parted and a
cardinal announced in Latin: ‘Habemus Papem!’ or ‘We have a pope!’ “

And within hours, some German cardinals spilled some of the secrets of the conclave, reportsAssociated Press
. Cardinal Joachim Meisner told reporters that the new Pope was elected
on the fourth ballot – the first of the afternoon session – and
received more than the required two-thirds support. “It was done
without an electoral battle, and without propaganda,” the archbishop of
Cologne told reporters. “For me it was a miracle.”

The
swift election of the German-born Ratzinger is “a vote for continuity
of John Paul’s policies, signaling an endorsement of the church’s most
conservative teachings,” says the Los Angeles Times
(registration required).

When
the bell of St. Peter’s finally rang to confirm that a new pope had
been chosen, just after 6 pm, “everyone in Rome dropped what they were
doing and ran to the Vatican to see the new pope emerge onto the
balcony,” says Elisabeth Rosenthal in the International Herald Tribune
. And Via Della Conciliazione, the road leading to St Peter’s,
“suddenly turned into a strange workday-marathon scene, choked with
runners in suits lugging briefcases and young mothers pushing strollers
along the stones.”

But amid the applause there were “groans and pockets of stunned silence,” says Associated Press
religion writer, Brian Murphy. “Perhaps no member of the conclave
evoked such potent opinions – and has stirred more arguments – as the
78-year-old Ratzinger and the role he’s held since 1981: head of the
powerful Vatican office that oversees doctrine and takes action against
dissent.”

The
new Pope has “snow-white hair and piercing blue eyes” and speaks with a
soft German accent which “some find sinister and others charming,”
writes Richard Owens in The Times
.

And in some ways it’s even more extraordinary to have a German Pope than it was to have a Polish one, says Charles Moore in
London’sDaily Telegraph
.

It
cannot be by chance that he has taken the name of Benedict, patron
saint of Europe, for his papal title, says Catherine Pepinster in The Indpendent
. Pope Benedict XVI, she says, is a Pope for Europe.

Get Crikey for $1 a week.

Lockdowns are over and BBQs are back! At last, we get to talk to people in real life. But conversation topics outside COVID are so thin on the ground.

Join Crikey and we’ll give you something to talk about. Get your first 12 weeks for $12 to get stories, analysis and BBQ stoppers you won’t see anywhere else.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
12 weeks for just $12.