Pope Benedict XVI, newly elected on April 19, is a well-known conservative who many believe has played a role to polarize the Catholic Church. Now, Pope Benedict XVI faces a significant responsibility to assume as a new pope, which is to prove himself as a true integrator before the Catholic Church and the whole world.
Second Tenure of Pope John Paul II
The meaning of his election by Roman Catholic cardinals is to finalize the accomplishments of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, according to the respected German weekly Der Spiegel Online on April 20. This can be understood as also in line with the fact that Pope John Paul II appointed most of the cardinals who attended the Conclave.
Another analysis says that the 78-year-old Pope was chosen to serve as a bridge to his successor. In other words, it is highly likely that Pope Benedict XVI will play a transitional role before his successor deals with several critical issues of the Catholic Church in a full-fledged manner.
Mixture of Joy and Concern
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the newly elected Pope Benedict XVI, once silenced Leonardo Boff, a Brazilian Liberation theologist in 1985. Some days later, a sympathetic Brazilian bishop suggested Boff confront Ratzinger by finding heretical elements in Ratzingers writings.
The U.S. weekly publication National Catholic Reporter claimed that the Boff case was evident testimony that Pope Benedict XVI was responsible for extreme polarization inside the Catholic Church.
A public poll conducted by Der Spiegel on Germans in early April showed that 36 percent of respondents opposed his election because of his strong conservative tendencies. Only 29 percent supported him.
The National Catholic Reporter pointed out that over the past two decades, Pope Benedict XVI had been involved in almost every Catholic church-related controversy, including the period when he headed the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Many believe that the new pope will remain a staunch conservative on issues of sexual ethics, such as abortion, contraception, condom use, artificial insemination, homosexuality, the ordination of women priests and religious pluralism.
Is Flexibility Possible?
Pope Benedict XVI showed a progressive attitude at the Vatican Council II, and he was 35 at that time. In the council, he harshly criticized the Holy Office (the former Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), calling it disgraceful. However, after having witnessed the International Movement of Catholic Students in 1968, he started to lean toward conservatism.
Der Spiegel said that considering Pope Benedict XVI stated his intention to reform the church while serving as a cardinal, the problem here will be the scale of the changes that the new Pope has in mind.
On the other hand, despite the popular impression about him as staunchly conservative, Pope Benedict XVI is also known as a gentle and generous person. Others say that he is a good listener and enjoys working with others.
Now, the whole world is paying keen attention to whether Pope Benedict XVI will change from a guardian of Catholic doctrine to a Pope who leads the integration of the Catholic Church.