The Result of the Papal Election

Hans Küng


The election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope comes as 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 role of the Papacy in the Catholic Church today is so challenging that it can change anyone. Someone who enters the conclave a progressive cardinal can emerge as a conservative (such as Montini – Pope Paul VI), and someone who enters the conclave a conservative cardinal can, indeed, emerge as a progressive (Roncalli – Pope John XXIII).

 We should note that the first signals of the present Papacy will be important:

1. The nominations to the most important offices in the Curia, above all the Cardinal Secretary of State and the Head of the Congregation of  the Doctrine of the Faith.

2. The inaugural address, which will indicate the program.

3. The first encyclical, which will mark the way forward.

4. The first decisions about the organization of the Curia and further statements on questions of doctrine, morals and discipline.
The name Benedict XVI leaves open the possibility for a more moderate policy. Let us therefore give him a chance; as with any President of the United States, we should allow a new Pope 100 days to learn. At every turn he faces tremendous tasks which have been piling up for a long time and which were not tackled by his predecessor:

– the active advancement of ecumenical relations between the Christian churches;

– the realization of the collegiality of the Pope with the bishops and the decentralization of church leadership, which is desired on all sides, in favor of a greater autonomy of the local churches;

– the guarantee of an equal footing for men and women in the church and the implementation of the full participation of women at all levels of the church.


Hans Küng is President of the Global Ethic Foundation and was named a theological consultant for the Second Vatican Council by Pope John XXIII and played a major role in the writing of the documents of Vatican II.