of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope comes as an enormous
disappointment for all those who hoped for a reformist and
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
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
– 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
– 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.
is President of the
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.