This weekend, area Roman Catholic priests will utter a new pope's name during Mass for the first time in decades -- Pope Benedict XVI.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany was elected Tuesday to lead the Roman Catholic Church.
"I'm just plain thrilled," said Father Paul Fruth, St. James Catholic Church in Aitkin. "I think he's a wonderful choice. He certainly worked very close with John Paul."
Father Dennis Hoffman, Immaculate Heart Catholic Church in Crosslake, said the choice is surprising in some ways and logical in others as the cardinal has been Pope John Paul II's right-hand man for a number of years.
"I don't think we are going to see any drastic changes," Hoffman said, adding it's unlikely to see married priests or the ordination of women. "I think he will continue the work and the legacy of John Paul. We have to wait a year or two and find out how things unfold. God still guides the church just like in the early days."
Ratzinger is the first German pope since the 11th century. Hoffman, of German descent himself, said -- on a personal note from his family heritage -- the choice of a German as pontiff was great.
It is likely one of the new Holy Father's first travels will be to his home country in mid-August for the Catholic World Youth Day gathering in Cologne, Germany. This will be the 20th World Youth Day, an event founded by John Paul II.
"I think then we'll get a much clearer picture of who and what he is going to be as our spiritual shepherd," Hoffman said of Pope Benedict's expected attendance.
Fruth also was struck by the connection of a German pontiff and the next World Youth Day's setting.
Fruth does not accept descriptions of the new pope as a conservative hard-liner.
"I think it's going to be a mistake to say that," Fruth said, instead describing the new pope as an intellectual theologian. "He's going to be a very interesting transitional pope right now. He's the right person to kick us to the next stage to where we are going. It will be all right. I do not see him as a conservative. I do not see him as liberal. I see him as very spiritual."
In regard to the new pope's name choice, Hoffman went to his history books Tuesday afternoon to look up the last pontiff with that name. Benedict XV, who reigned from 1914 to 1922, was considered a moderate.
"He focused on solidarity among different countries and nationalities and peace," Hoffman said of Benedict XV.
Hoffman expects the newly elected Pope Benedict XVI will continue John Paul II's work, but said he has big shoes to fill. Hoffman said John Paul II traveled the world, including the slums of Brazil where he spoke of the need to do more for the poor. And Hoffman said John Paul II went nose-to-nose with communist leaders advocating freedom from oppression.
"The same as John Paul -- he has strength of character," Hoffman said of the new pope. "He's never made any bones about who he is and isn't. He is very direct on issues of dogma and doctrine."
Fruth noted the new pontiff's first words had him coming to the faithful as a humble man entrusted to their prayers. For people age 35 and younger, Fruth said John Paul was the only pontiff they knew and they lost their root when he died.
"Now they see the hope of what's ahead," he said.
RENEE RICHARDSON can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5852.
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