German Cardinal Ratzinger elected Pope Benedict XVI

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Sistine Chapel

White smoke appeared today at 5.50 p.m. local time over the Sistine Chapel in Rome - the first sign that a new Pope had been elected by the Conclave of Cardinals. A few minutes later, the bells of St. Peter's Basilica began ringing, confirming the election. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger had been selected as the successor to Pope John Paul II as the 265th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, and will be known as Pope Benedict XVI.

The conclave of 115 cardinals started the process of electing a new Pope on Monday, April 18. However, it has taken two days for the required two thirds majority to be reached.

The new Pope appeared to the public within an hour of the first announcement. He appeared on the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica and delivered a short address to the crowd in Italian. Tens of thousands of people were in St Peter's Square to observe the results of the election.

The election of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger follows the death of Pope John Paul II on April 2.


Pope Benedict XVI, born Joseph Ratzinger (born April 16, 1927) is pope of the Roman Catholic Church. In 1981 Cardinal Ratzinger was appointed prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (formerly known as the Office of the Holy Inquisition) by Pope John Paul II, made a Cardinal Bishop of the episcopal see of Velletri-Segni in 1993, and was elected Dean of the College of Cardinals in 2002, becoming titular bishop of Ostia. He was one of the most influential men in the Vatican and a close associate of the late Pope John Paul II. He presided over the funeral of John Paul II and also presided over the Conclave in 2005. During the sede vacante, he was the highest-ranking official in the Catholic Church.

On January 2, 2005, Time quoted unnamed Vatican sources as saying that Ratzinger was a front runner to succeed John Paul II should the Pope die or become too ill to continue as Pontiff. His see, Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia, has traditionally been an antechamber to the Papal seat.

However it is important to note that Ratzinger's election to the Papal office was by no means certain. In conclaves men who are considered papabile often are not elected to office. At times men considered certain to win the election did not win. This is expressed in the saying, "He who enters the conclave as Pope leaves as a Cardinal."

Ratzinger was considered to be Pope John Paul II's "right hand man" and also one of his closest friends and confidants, and during the Pope's final illness, he carried out many of the Pope's functions as leader of the Catholic Church.

Ratzinger has repeatedly stated he would like to retire to a Bavarian village and dedicate himself to writing books, but more recently, he told friends he was ready to "accept any charge God placed on him." After the death of John Paul II on April 2, 2005 Ratzinger ceased functioning as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Ratzinger speaks ten languages and has received seven honorary doctorate degrees. He is an accomplished pianist with a preference for Mozart.

Ratzinger was a member of the Hitler Youth during his teenage years, as was required by German law at the time. His father was very strongly anti-Nazi, and Ratzinger himself later deserted the German army.

He is the eighth German pope.

In April, 2005, he was identified as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine[1].