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Benedict XVI prepares for first Mass as pope

German pontiff receives congratulations from around the world

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John Paul II

VATICAN CITY (CNN) -- Pope Benedict XVI prepared to celebrate his first Mass as pontiff Wednesday at the Vatican, while world leaders welcomed his selection.

He will celebrate the Mass at 9 a.m. (3 a.m. ET) in the Sistine Chapel, where less than 24 hours earlier 115 Roman Catholic cardinals from 52 countries elected their dean, Germany's Joseph Ratzinger, one of the most powerful men in the Vatican under Pope John Paul II, as the 265th pope.

Tens of thousands cheered Benedict XVI, as he chose to call himself, when he appeared Tuesday evening on a Vatican balcony, and he received congratulations from political and religious leaders around the world.

President Bush called Benedict XVI "a man of great wisdom and knowledge."

"It is a great honor for the whole country," German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said. (World leaders react)

German Cardinal Walter Kasper, who clashed with the conservative Ratzinger through the years, praised his countryman's selection as the sixth German pope and the first since the 11th century. (Catholics react)

"I think he will be a pope of conciliation and peace," Kasper said after taking part in the conclave. (CNN Access)

Not everyone was enthralled with the selection.

Ratzinger's selection was "an enormous disappointment for all those who hoped for a reformist and pastoral pope," said Hans Kung, Catholic theologian, author and professor at Germany's University of Tubingen.

"But we must wait and see, for experience shows that the papacy in the Catholic Church today is such a challenge that it can change anyone," Kung said.

White smoke, bells

The College of Cardinals took only two days to choose the successor to Pope John Paul II. White smoke rising from the Sistine Chapel chimney gave the first indication that the cardinals had chosen a new pope.

The crowd clapped and waved flags as the smoke billowed over Vatican City about 5:50 p.m. (11:50 a.m. ET). Suspense built for the next 10 minutes as pilgrims waited for the ringing of bells -- at which point the onlookers let out a roar of jubilation.

John Paul II had decreed that white smoke be accompanied by the ringing of bells, to avoid a repeat of the confusion after his election in 1978.

Chemicals were added to the ballots to turn the smoke white or black.

With a two-thirds majority required, the conclave had failed to elect a new pope in votes Monday night and twice Tuesday morning.

At 6:43 p.m. Tuesday, Cardinal Jorge Arturo Medina Estevez announced Ratzinger's election in the traditional Latin.

He prefaced the announcement by saying the words "brothers and sisters" in several languages, an introduction that is likely a bow to the universality of the Roman Catholic Church and its 1.1 billion members.

"Dear brothers and sisters, after our great pope, John Paul II, the cardinals have elected me, a simple, humble worker in God's vineyard," the new pope told the crowd, according to a translation of remarks he made in Italian.

"I am consoled by the fact that the Lord knows how to work and how to act, even with insufficient tools, and I especially trust in your prayers.

"In the joy of the resurrected Lord, trustful of his permanent help, we go ahead, sure that God will help. And Mary, his most beloved mother, stands on our side."

He then delivered his first "Urbi at Orbi" ("for the city and for the world") papal blessing, after which the crowd in St. Peter's Square chanted, "Viva il papa," or "Long live the pope."

Benedict XVI was to dine and spend Tuesday evening with the cardinals in their Santa Marta residence, said Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls. All the cardinals were invited, even those who did not participate in the conclave.

After his election in 1978, John Paul II also asked the cardinals to stay and dine with him.

The Vatican said Pope Benedict XVI will hold his inaugural Mass Sunday.

Warning against 'relativism'

There had been a great deal of speculation about who would be chosen to succeed John Paul II, who died April 2 at age 84.

John Paul was widely credited with extending the reach of the papacy. He spoke more than a dozen languages and set an unprecedented pattern of pastoral travel, drawing huge crowds all over the world.

He was also strictly traditional on issues of sexuality and the role of women in the church, which won him support among some Catholics but alienated others.

Similar disagreement exists over the new pontiff's stances on issues such as birth control, stem cell research and the ordination of female priests.

Ratzinger, however, was critical of progressive Catholicism.

In a homily delivered at a Mass before the cardinals began the conclave Monday, he warned against "a dictatorship of relativism, which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires."

His election was seen by some observers as a sign that cardinals wished to stay John Paul II's conservative course, but at the same time wanted a shorter papacy than John Paul II's, which lasted 26 years.

Ratzinger, who turned 78 on Saturday, was John Paul II's chief theological adviser for 20 years. (Profile)

The new pope once served as archbishop of Munich, Germany, and since 1981 led the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, the office that oversees "the doctrine on the faith and morals throughout the Catholic world," according to the Vatican.

As a young priest, Ratzinger was on the progressive side of theological debates but shifted to the right after the student revolutions of 1968.

In the Vatican, he has been the driving force behind crackdowns on liberation theology, religious pluralism, and challenges to traditional teachings on issues such as homosexuality, and dissent on other issues like the ordination of women.

The dean of the College of Cardinals since November 2002, he was elevated to cardinal by Pope Paul VI in June 1977.

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