Pope Benedict XVI greeted the crowd yesterday from a balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican after being chosen to head the Roman Catholic Church.

‘A simple,
humble worker’

Background and name
important, isle leaders say

Benedict is a loaded name that the new pope chose as a link with World War I-era Pope Benedict XV, who worked to heal a division within the church and opposed inhumane warfare, a Hawaii Catholic leader says.

"Aren't we facing the same things today, nuclear warfare and terrorism?" said the Rev. Joseph Grimaldi, vicar general of the Hawaii diocese. "I think there is a reason why this man chose to be Benedict XVI: In his heart he wants to follow through."

Grimaldi and others in Hawaii found significance in every aspect of the new Pope Benedict XVI.

The Rev. Marc Alexander, diocesan theologian, said he thinks the College of Cardinals chose a European deliberately because of the decline of the Catholic Church and religion in general in Europe.

"Strong leadership that understands the European mentality and is credible is the only chance to turn that around," Alexander said.

Gregoria Demesa Siador, at Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace downtown, reacted yesterday to the selection of a new pope.

The Rev. Ed Popish, who is stationed in Rome as secretary general of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts, agreed that the choice was rooted in concern about the faltering faith in Europe.

The original Benedict, a fifth-century teacher and monk, is the patron saint of Europe, Popish said. "There is a great debate raging over creation of the European Union constitution without any reference to Christianity, which is a good deal of European history."

Popish and another Vatican-based priest, the Rev. Emilio Vega Garcia, are in Hawaii working on the sainthood cause of Father Damien DeVeuster.

"The church is bigger than the pope," Vega Garcia said. "It doesn't matter if he is an African, a Latin American. The church is like a huge ship; after 2,000 years no pilot is able to make much change in its course."

Chaminade University religious studies teacher Dave Anderson said the new pope "comes from a world of books and theology."

"It's nice to see a theologian can rise to his position," he said. "He's not going to change his fundamental beliefs. What remains to be seen is if he can manifest the pastoral heart so evident in his predecessor."

Sister Kathleen Marie Shields, former diocesan director of religious education, pointed to reservations people have about the pope's strict doctrinaire role as former head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

"This is a new role, and it's only fair to give people a chance to create a new vision in their role in life. We don't know all the things that are possible," said Shields, who is in Hawaii this month to unveil her recent book, "Aloha Ke Akua," a history of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, who have taught in Hawaii since 1938.

But, she noted, "what is grace-filled about him is that he speaks so many languages, a gift to building unity in the church."

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Hawaii Catholics express
concern about pope’s age

Worshippers at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace in downtown Honolulu were happy that a new pope had been chosen. Some expressed concern about his age.

Group won
cardinal's support

A group of dissident island Catholics gained the support of then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in a 1991 dispute with a former Hawaii bishop.

The Concerned Catholics group opposed modernization of the worship format, which took effect worldwide after the Second Vatican Council in 1965. They insisted on holding Mass in Latin, bringing in priests from elsewhere after the diocese changed to English-language services.

They attacked the late Bishop Joseph Ferrario on their radio talk show in a escalating dispute that led the bishop to excommunicate them.

The group appealed to the Vatican.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which Ratzinger headed, ruled in 1993 that their actions did not constitute schism from church teaching. It rescinded their excommunication but told Ferrario that he could condemn their actions.

The bishop eventually permitted a weekly Latin Mass to be said at an approved location. That Mass continues today at St. John the Baptist Church in Kalihi.

Mary Adamski, Star-Bulletin

The new pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, who took the name Benedict XVI, is 78 years old.

"Wow, is his mind still strong?," was the initial response by Josie Agapay who stopped at the church on the way to work to pray for her family.

"I don't think there is anything wrong with his age," she added. "Why would they choose him if he wasn't able to do the job."

Juliete Mina, of Waianae, stopped in to pray on her way to a doctor's appointment. After hearing about the selection of the new pope she said, "In my opinion, it's better (to select) a younger one like John Paul."

John Paul II was 58 when he was elected pope in 1978.

"When they are 78 years old you just don't know," Mina said.

Catalina Dela Cruz who retired from Kapiolani Medical Center and lives in Waikiki was very sad when Pope John Paul II died. She remembered him as a smart man who spoke eight languages.

Gregoria Demesa Siador, 66, goes to church almost every morning to pray. Yesterday she was there to pray for the sick.

When asked about the age of newly elected Pope Benedict XVI she said, "that's young, so great. I hope the pope will live as long as our late pope did."

Pope John Paul II died at 84 after serving 26 years. He died on April 2.

James Naeole, of Waimanalo, was impressed at how quickly the Cardinals elected a new pope.

"That was pretty fast, I think they only took two days," he said.

Naeole was in church asking God to guide the future of the Catholic Church. He said he didn't think the age of the new pope was an issue.

"I don't think it's a problem, sometimes older people have more knowledge. Unfortunately I don't know what his views are."

The Rev. Joseph Grimaldi, delegate to the Diocesan Administrator and Judicial Vicar said instead of looking at the new pope's age people should look at his name, Benedict XVI.

He said by choosing that name the new pope may want to follow the work of Benedict XV, who, among other things, worked to reunify the church, which was divided between liberals and conservatives during World War I.

Grimaldi said popes pick names for very specific reasons. It's usually because they admire a person with that name and want to follow in their footsteps, he said.

"Don't let your heart be troubled," he said. "The spirit works wherever it will."

Dela Cruz said she doesn't care how old Pope Benedict XVI is. "Maybe he's the best. I'm sure they selected the best Pope."

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Catholic Church in Hawaii

Sister Lois, center, reacted yesterday to the news that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had been named the new pope as the Sisters of Divine Love watched the events on CNN at the small hostel they run in Enugu, Nigeria.

Catholics’ new leader
advocates tradition
and strict obedience
to church teachings

VATICAN CITY » Pope Benedict XVI celebrated his first public Mass as the 265th leader of the Roman Catholic Church today after one of the shortest conclaves in a century sent an unmistakable signal that the church, buffeted by 21st-century problems, is intent on sticking to tradition.

Benedict, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, clutched his pastoral staff and made the sign of the cross as he entered the intimate Sistine Chapel, led by the cardinals who had elected him pope in the frescoed room a day earlier.

Even at this early stage, two images of the new pope have emerged in sharp relief.

With his wispy silver hair blowing in the wind, the German prelate stood before the world's political and spiritual leaders at John Paul II's funeral April 8 and offered an eloquent, sensitive farewell that moved some to tears.

Ten days later -- just before Ratzinger and 114 other cardinals entered the conclave to select the 265th pontiff -- he delivered a sharp-edged homily on strict obedience to church teachings that left liberal Catholics wincing.

"He could be a wedge rather than a unifier for the church," said the Rev. Thomas Reese, editor of the Jesuit weekly magazine America.

This was clear in St. Peter's Square moments after the announcement of Ratzinger's election and the name chosen by the first Germanic pope in 1,000 years: Benedict XVI. Amid the applause were groans and pockets of stunned silence.

"It's Ratzinger," French pilgrim Silvie Genthial, 52, barked into her cellular phone before hanging up.

"We were all hoping for a different pope -- a Latin American, perhaps -- but not an ultraconservative like this," she said.

But others hugged and toasted the new pope with red wine. "A clear and true voice of faith," said Maria Piscini, an 80-year-old Italian grandmother, raising a paper cup filled with pinot noir.

The cardinals who selected him knew it would be received this way.

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 has held since 1981: head of the powerful Vatican office that oversees doctrine and takes action against dissent.

The man who has become pope was a product of wartime Germany but also a deeply Roman Catholic region, Bavaria.

As the Nazis strengthened their stranglehold on Germany in the 1930s, Ratzinger's strongly Catholic family moved frequently among villages in rural Bavaria.

"Unemployment was rife," he wrote in his memoir "Milestones." "War reparations weighed heavily on the German economy. Battles among the political parties set people against one another." His father, he wrote, was a determined anti-Nazi.

The Roman Catholic Church, Ratzinger recalled, was his bulwark against the Nazi regime, serving as "a citadel of truth and righteousness against the realm of atheism and deceit."

But he could not avoid the realities of the day. Ratzinger was briefly and unenthusiastically a member of the Hitler Youth in his early teens, after it became mandatory in 1941, according to a biography by John Allen Jr., who covers the Vatican for the National Catholic Reporter.

In 1943 he and fellow seminarians were drafted. He deserted in 1945 and returned home but was captured by U.S. soldiers and held as a prisoner of war for several months, Allen wrote.

Along his way to the papacy, he built a distinguished academic career as a theologian and then spent nearly a quarter-century as Pope John Paul II's theological visionary -- and enforcer of strict positions on doctrine, morality and the primacy of the faith.

His interventions are a roll call of flash points for the church: the 1987 order stripping American theologian the Rev. Charles Curran of the right to teach because he encouraged dissent; crippling Latin Americans supporting the popular "liberation theology" movement for alleged Marxist leanings; coming down hard on efforts to rewrite Scriptures in gender-inclusive language.

He also shows no flexibility on the church's views on priestly celibacy, contraception and the ban on ordinations for women.

In 1986 he denounced rock music as the "vehicle of anti-religion." In 1988 he dismissed anyone who tried to find "feminist" meanings in the Bible. Last year, he told American bishops that it was allowable to deny Communion to those who support such "manifest grave sin" as abortion and euthanasia.

He earned unflattering nicknames such as Panzercardinal, God's Rottweiler and the Grand Inquisitor. Cartoonists emphasized his deep-set eyes, and Italians lampooned his pronounced German accent.

But among conservatives he rose in stature. An online fan club sings his praises and offers souvenirs with the slogan "Putting the smackdown on heresy since 1981."

In recent years he took on issues outside church doctrine. He once called Buddhism a religion for the self-indulgent. In an interview with the French magazine Le Figaro last year, he suggested Turkey's bid to join the Europe Union conflicted with Europe's Christian roots -- a view that could unsettle Vatican attempts to improve relations with Muslims.

The Associated Press and the New York Times contributed to this report.

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