German cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, a close collaborator of the late Pope John Paul the Second, has been elected to succeed him as leader of the Catholic church after one of the shortest conclaves of the past 100 years. The new pope will be known as Benedict the Sixteenth.
The new pontiff, who has been the dean of the college of cardinals and the head of the Vatican's Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, was elected on the second day of the conclave after four ballots. White smoke poured out of the chimney of the Vatican's Sistine Chapel, to indicate the election of a new pope.
And, then, the big bell at Saint Peter's Basilica rang out repeatedly to herald the news. The crowd in Saint Peter's Square had tripled in size by the time Cardinal Jorge Medina Estevez appeared on the basilica's main balcony to announce the identity of the new pope.
"Habemus Papam…. Cardinale Josephus ...Ratzinger."
The crowd went wild with cheers, chanting Viva il Papa, Long Live the Pope, and shortly thereafter the new Pope Benedict the Sixteenth emerged to speak to the faithful.
Dear brothers and sisters, he says, after the great Pope John Paul the Second, the cardinals have elected me, a simple, humble worker in the vineyard of the lord.
Despite his fierce reputation as the guardian of Catholic dogma and his opposition to attempts to adapt the church to modern times, the new pope is a soft-spoken, deeply religious prelate who lives simply.
A man of towering intellect, he is one of the foremost theologians of his time. But his strong defense of traditional Catholic principles has upset many Catholics in Europe and the Americas.
Pope Benedict turned 78 last Saturday and, before the conclave, there were doubts that he would be elected because of his age. But Vatican experts say the cardinals chose someone who was close to John Paul to consolidate the late pope's legacy rather than a younger cardinal who could wind up with another long pontificate.