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Catholics react to announcement of new pope

Pope Benedict XVI appeared before crowds at St. Peter's Square on Tuesday.
Joseph Ratzinger

(CNN) -- Roman Catholics reacted quickly to Tuesday's announcement that conservative Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany had been chosen the 265th pontiff of the church -- Benedict XVI.

The 78-year-old successor to the late Pope John Paul II described himself as a "simple, humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord."

  • German Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Council for Christian Unity, told CNN: "[The election] was a very moving event for me, my first conclave. ... [Ratzinger] can be a very charming person, he's a very bright person ... and I think he will be a pope of reconciliation and peace."
  • Kasper said Ratzinger told him in a brief meeting, "We will walk together on the path to unity of the church."

    While he and Ratzinger sometimes disagreed, Kasper said, "In the issue of faith, there was never a difference."

  • The Rev. David O'Connell, president of Catholic University of America, said: "This is a man who will make fidelity to the church's teachings central to his papacy, but I don't think he will hammer people over the head. I think he will invite people to accept the Lord and accept the Church, and I just think this is wonderful news."
  • Hans Kung, a Catholic theologian, author and professor at Germany's University of Tubingen, said: "The election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as pope is an enormous disappointment for all those who hoped for a reformist and pastoral pope. ... 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: Someone who went into the conclave a progressive cardinal can emerge as a conservative pope. ... Someone who went into the conclave a conservative cardinal can emerge as a progressive pope."
  • Archibishop Sean O'Malley of Boston, Massachusetts, said in a written statement from his archdiocese: "Our Holy Father was a close collaborator with Pope John Paul II in the central administration of the church. ... Pope Benedict XVI was also the residential bishop of the Archdiocese of Munich, a position of great pastoral responsibility, and has considerable academic credentials. All of these experiences and achievements put our Holy Father in good stead as he begins his ministry as shepherd of the universal church."
  • Baltimore's archbishop, Cardinal William Keeler, in a statement read by Bishop Francis Malooly, auxiliary bishop and vicar general for Baltimore: "After the election, we cardinals went to him one by one. I conveyed to him the love of the people of Baltimore, and he responded in English, 'We must keep praying for each other.'"
  • Over the years, "I found him to be very understanding and supportive in many situations. His command of English and Italian is excellent. ... [He is] very warm, very holy, very focused, a humble man, very, very intelligent."

  • Bishop William Skylstad, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said he met Cardinal Ratzinger recently and "found him to be a very humble man. ... I found him to be very pastoral. I found him to be very concerned and caring, supportive, but also a man who, with a deep sense of humility, was committed to the mission of the gospel and furtherment of the common good."
  • "Certainly as we deal with the conflicts issues, there needs to be a guiding light from our own tradition," Skylstad said. "I think Cardinal Ratzinger, in a very difficult, complex time where there are challenges of traditional moral values that are very commonplace in our world, he really has been a kind of a rock of Gibraltar, so to speak, really solid foundation as we look to the future."

  • Simon Caldwell of Britain's Catholic Herald newspaper told Reuters that Ratzinger "was the clear favorite, and I am sure he will be a good pope. He is a very clever man, a great intellect and was very, very close to John Paul II. The one thing this pontiff will represent is continuity."
  • Also speaking with Reuters, Stanislas Lalanne, spokesman for the French Bishops' Conference and a former pupil of the new pope said: "When I met him I liked his clarity of expression, his rare intelligence, his extraordinary deep knowledge, his extraordinarily deep faith -- and at the same time he has a way talking to you in a simple language. When you listen to people like that you think you become intelligent yourself as you listen to them."
  • Jurandir Arauj, of the National Conference of Bishops Afro-Brazilian Section told Reuters: "It seems that he is too conservative. Hopefully the Holy Spirit can help him change. We expected a person like John Paul. Somebody who could give the Church alternatives ... open the Church to the world, look more at reality."
  • Peru's Paul Palacio, a Catholic visiting the Vatican with his son, said after being asked if he was sad that a Latin American cardinal had not been chosen: "We're happy, because the pope is not for one country. He's for all the world, and is good for everybody."
  • Paraguay's Gabriella Pick, another Vatican visitor, said: "I hope he would follow the path that John Paul left for us to follow" on outreach to young people. Though Ratzinger is conservative, she said, "As long as he transmits the love for Christ, he will be OK."

  • Reuters contributed to this report.

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