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Viewing cable 05VATICAN467, POPE BENEDICT XVI SUCCEEDS JOHN PAUL II

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05VATICAN467 2005-04-19 19:07 2010-12-22 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Vatican
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L VATICAN 000467

SIPDIS


DEPT. FOR EUR/WE (LEVIN), EUR/PPD, INR

E.O. 12958: DECL: 4/19/2015
TAGS: PREL PGOV PINR VT
SUBJECT: POPE BENEDICT XVI SUCCEEDS JOHN PAUL II

REF: A. A) VATICAN 000463,

B. B) VATICAN 00465,
C. C) VATICAN 00466

CLASSIFIED BY: D. Brent Hardt, Charge D'Affaires, EXEC, STATE.
REASON: 1.4 (d)

-----------------------------------
Ratzinger Elected Pope Benedict XVI
-----------------------------------

1. (SBU) The Roman Catholic College of Cardinals elected German
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger Supreme Pontiff April 19. Ratzinger,
78, has taken the name Pope Benedict XVI. Despite media
speculation that Ratzinger had the support of many cardinals,
his election was a surprise to many, given indications that
other more moderate voices might prevent a two-thirds majority.
Just yesterday, Poloff spoke to a top aide to Ratzinger,
American Monsignor Charles Brown, who asked half jokingly for
prayers for Ratzinger's candidacy. When we saw Brown just after
Benedict's appearance as the new pope, the American was
shellshocked: "I'm speechless," he said.

-----------------
Powerful Cardinal
-----------------

2. (SBU) Ratzinger was Dean of the College of Cardinals and had
long been considered one of the two or three most powerful men
in the Vatican. As head of the Holy See's Congregation for the
Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican's watchdog for theological
orthodoxy, Ratzinger developed a reputation for unapologetic
conservatism and a firm hand with wayward theologians. The
media often portrayed him as an aloof, autocratic despot.
However, in meetings with Ratzinger, Post has found him to be
surprisingly humble, spiritual, and approachable.

--------------------
Will Stay the Course
--------------------

3. (C) Post will provide a more detailed analysis of the likely
course of Benedict XVI's papacy septel, but the broad strokes
seem clear. Benedict XVI will stay the course of John Paul II
theologically; there will be no liberalization of Catholic
policy on abortion, contraception, priestly celibacy, female
priests, and other hotly debated issues. A sermon he delivered
Monday before the opening of the conclave indicated as much, as
Ratzinger made it clear a new pope should not back down in the
face of secularism and other challenges to orthodoxy.

--------------
Europe a Focus
--------------

4. (C) Pope Benedict will likely place great emphasis on the
Church in Europe. Ratzinger believes Europe is the spiritual
and historic home of the Church, and he is not ready to cede his
home continent to the forces of secularism or Islam. In fact,
Ratzinger made headlines in August 2004 when he expressed
reservations about Turkey's prospective EU membership (04
Vatican 3196). He also led the ultimately unsuccessful drive
for a mention of Europe's Christian roots in the new EU
constitution, which became a primary focus of John Paul II's
last year as pontiff. Many in the Holy See questioned the logic
of this focus, given that the constitution already provided the
legal protections the church needed, but it reflects the new
Pope's certain attention to the spiritual future of Europe.

--------------------
Transitional Figure?
--------------------

5. (SBU) In choosing the name Benedict XVI, Ratzinger may have
been acknowledging that at 78, and following an historic papacy,
he will be a transitional figure. Benedict XV's short-lived
papacy lasted only from 1914-1922. The original St. Benedict,
the founder of European monastic tradition, is the patron saint
of Europe -- yet another hint of Benedict XVI's intentions.

------------------------
Biographical Information
------------------------

6. (U) Joseph Ratzinger was born on 16 April 1927 in Marktl am
Inn, Germany. He was ordained a priest on 29 June 1951. His

father, a police officer, came from a traditional family of
farmers from Lower Bavaria. He spent his adolescent years in
Traunstein, and was called into the auxiliary anti-aircraft
service in the last months of World War II. From 1946 to 1951,
the year in which he was ordained a priest and began to teach,
he studied philosophy and theology at the University of Munich
and at the higher school in Freising. In 1953 he obtained a
doctorate in theology. Four years later, he qualified as a
university teacher. He then taught dogma and fundamental
theology at the higher school of philosophy and theology of
Freising, then in Bonn from 1959 to 1969, Muenster from 1963 to
1966, Tuebingen from 1966 to 1969. From 1969, he was a professor
of dogmatic theology and of the history of dogma at the
University of Regensburg and Vice President of the same
university.

7. (U) Already in 1962 he was well known when, at the age of
35, he became a consultor at Vatican Council II, of the
Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Joseph Frings. In March 1977,
Paul VI elected him Archbishop of Munich and Freising and on 28
May 1977 he was consecrated, the first diocesan priest after 80
years to take over the pastoral ministry of this large Bavarian
diocese. Ratzinger was created and proclaimed Cardinal by Paul
VI in the consistory of 27 June 1977. On 25 November 1981 he
was nominated by John Paul II Prefect of the Congregation for
the Doctrine of the Faith; President of the Biblical Commission
and of the Pontifical International Theological Commission.

-------
Comment
-------

8. (C) The election of John Paul II's theologian to succeed
him suggests that the College of Cardinals wanted the closest
possible theological continuity they could find in a new Pope.
At the same time, it is unlikely that the 78-year-old "humble
worker in the Lord's vineyard," as he described himself will cut
as prominent figure on the world stage as the young and robust
John Paul II did when he was first elected. While he will
certainly carry on the Holy See's global mission left by his
predecessor, his focus is likely to be more on strengthening the
church from within than promoting the Church's role externally.
Despite his euro-centric focus, he will also need to address the
concerns of those Catholics in the developing world whose
priority remains a socially and politically active church
working against poverty, disease and oppression. In this
regard, and more broadly on international issues, he will face a
steep learning curve. We should reach out to him early on to
help shape his approach as he begins to grapple with the world
beyond the Vatican's walls.

HARDT


NNNN

2005VATICA00467 - Classification: CONFIDENTIAL