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Campus reacts to new pope’s election


With unusual speed and little surprise, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, of Germany, became Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday.

The 78-year-old leader, who is now the 265th pope, promises to enforce strictly conservative policies for the world’s Roman Catholics and has dubbed himself “a simple, humble worker.”

Reactions to the selection of the new pope have been mixed among campus Catholics and non-Catholics.

“Pope Benedict XVI has the advantage of being the last pope’s right-hand man,” said Father Donald Andrie, a campus minister for the St. Lawrence Catholic Church and Newman Center.

The new pope will work very well with the hierarchy of the Catholic Church because of his familiarity with it, Andrie said.

Pope Benedict XVI’s extensive experience with churchwide initiatives, such as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which articulates the beliefs of the church, will also work to his advantage, Andrie said.

John Watkins, a University English professor, who is Catholic, said the experienced new pope represents a predictable choice for the church.

“He was the safe choice,” Watkins said. “Many of John Paul II’s policies will go unchanged, because Pope Benedict XVI helped to draft them.”

This new pope will prove shyer in temperament, compared with John Paul II, Watkins said.

“This is not a testament to the shortcomings of Benedict XVI but more a testament to the charisma of John Paul II,” Watkins said.

He said he also expects the new pope to give more authority to Rome and less to local bishops and their initiatives, Watkins said.

Watkins predicts the new pope will not put the same emphasis on diversity or outreach to the Third World as John Paul II did. Watkins said Pope Benedict XVI is a bureaucrat who is more suited for doctrines and ideas than ministry.

“John Paul II helped many to realize that not all Catholics are Caucasian and many live south of the equator,” Watkins said.

Others on campus said they worry the new pope’s emphasis on conservative Catholic policies will promote intolerance.

Catalina Restrepo, a College of Liberal Arts senior and practicing Catholic, said she worries Catholicism will become more ethnocentric and intolerant of homosexuality because of these policies.

“(Pope Benedict XVI) wants to make Catholicism the ‘it’ religion,” Restrepo said. “As a Catholic, I don’t want to be associated with some of the things he represents.”

Emily Souza, a CLA senior and co-chairwoman of the Queer Student Cultural Center, said she doesn’t foresee changes in the lives of many Catholic gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students in the United States because of the new pope.

“There’s not much difference between saying gay people are bad and saying gay people are evil,” Souza said. “You can’t get much more conservative than John Paul II on queer issues.”

– The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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