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"We're the Pope!" reads the headline in the Bild newspaperImage: AP

German Press Split Over New Pope

DW staff/AFP (sp)
April 20, 2005

German newspapers were torn Wednesday between pride over the election of the first native son in five centuries as pope and concerns over the choice of the staunch conservative Joseph Ratzinger.


"We're the Pope!" was the banner headline splashed across the front page of the mass-selling Bild newspaper. "Our Joseph Ratzinger is Benedict XVI." "Oh my God" replied the left-leaning daily Tageszeitung in Berlin.

In a major departure from tradition, Bild knocked off the photo of the obligatory nude model from the front page in favor of a huge picture of Ratzinger shortly after his election as pope and blanket coverage of a "sensation of the century," as it described Ratzinger's election.

Kardinal Joseph Ratzinger
The new popeImage: AP

"The road before the new pope is steep and rocky. He will have to lead the Church cautiously in the modern world of today. There will be no abrupt break with the established traditions, nor a stubborn maintenance of positions that many believers have criticized for years," Bild wrote in an editorial.

"A signal for Europe"

The left-leaning Frankfurter Rundschau warned that the inauguration of Benedict XVI "will not raise much enthusiasm" among German Catholics but it said that the choice of a German was "a signal for Europe."

"Joseph Ratzinger, while he was cardinal, always called for a return to our Christian roots and he will continue on that path," it said.

The conservative Berlin-based daily Die Welt said "many in the West will not be pleased with the choice" but said the labels of "conservative" and even "reactionary" for Ratzinger were "clichés."

Galerie: Papst Benedikt Bild 14, Ratzinger begrüßt den Papst
Joseph Ratzinger with the late pope John Paul IIImage: dpa

"Joseph Ratzinger, as a companion of the late Pope John Paul II, was significantly involved in his passionate attempts to open the Catholic church to the world," it wrote.

The respected conservative newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said the fact that Ratzinger came from Germany, the birthplace of Martin Luther's Reformation, did not count against him. "Cardinals from West and East, North and South chose him as Benedict XVI not despite but rather for his strength in one of the shortest conclaves in the history of the Church," it wrote.

"Ratzinger embodies the anti-Reformation -- not with fire and sword but with the power of the spirit. The Church should be united -- that is the message of the conclave."

An uncomfortable choice

But the center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung said that most German Catholics -- including many bishops -- had feared the choice of Ratzinger as pope.

"The relationship between the Germans and their most famous representative at the Vatican was always like the state of affairs in belligerent families. Everyone knows each other so well that they know the weaknesses of the others and yet not well enough to appreciate their strengths," it wrote.

"Joseph Ratzinger is a conservative who can and will cause friction but is not a reactionary universal villain," it said, adding that he had often shattered his image as the "armored cardinal" with his intelligence and warmth.

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