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U.S. Reaction

Choice Accentuates the Divide

Conservatives Generally Enthusiastic About Outcome

By Sudarsan Raghavan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 20, 2005; Page A16

As bells rang across Catholic University yesterday to signal Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's election as pope, student Mary DeFusco rejoiced. As Bendedict XVI, he would carry forward the conservatism that is the bedrock of the Catholic Church, she said.

"Pope John Paul II would have been happy with this choice," said DeFusco, 19, a freshman from Towson, Md. "I don't want things to change."

Monsignor W. Ronald Jameson, rector of the Cathedral of St. Matthew in Washington, said of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's election: "It's a time of celebration." (Robert A. Reeder - The Washington Post)

The Post's Sudarsan Raghavan reports on Washington area Catholics' reactions to the papal election of Joseph Ratzinger of Germany.
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Her friend Stephen Carville, seated next to her on a bench on the Northeast Washington campus, disagreed. He wanted a pope who would reconsider the Vatican's stance on issues such as stem cell research, homosexuality and condom use, and he did not expect Ratzinger to take that course.

"His ideology disagrees with mine," said Carville, 20, a freshman from Baton Rouge, La. "It may move the church in the wrong direction for the 21st century."

Across the nation and the region, Catholics reacted with strong emotions to the selection of Ratzinger. Many conservative Catholics, on the one hand, welcomed the news, saying he would stand firm on moral issues while bringing stability to the church. Many liberal Catholics, on the other hand, said they were disappointed by the election of the German cardinal, who has been called "God's Rottweiler" because of his statements supporting rigorous enforcement of Catholic doctrine.

Jerry Hicks, 62, of Glen Burnie was in his car making a Meals on Wheels delivery when he heard on the radio that a pontiff had been selected. The choice of Ratizinger pleased him greatly.

"I've read some of his books. I own two of them," said Hicks, who attends St. Alphonsus Church in Baltimore, where the traditional Latin mass is still celebrated. "The reason why I like him so much is he's very orthodox, very traditional."

He added, "I'm sure it will alienate anybody who wants big changes."

At St. Francis Xavier Church in New York, which welcomes gays, Ivy Reyes said she hoped Ratzinger, despite his conservatism, would move toward modernizing church policies on social issues. "I'm a Catholic, but I still believe in stem cell research," said Reyes, 25, who had ducked out of her job to offer a prayer for the new pope. "I'm hoping he can find a balance with the science."

After the news broke that the cardinals had reached a decision, Catholics around the region waited with anticipation to learn who he was.

Monsignor W. Ronald Jameson, rector of the Cathedral of St. Matthew in downtown Washington, fiddled with the dials of his transistor radio to get better reception as he stood outside the cathedral after the noon Mass.

"It's Ratzinger!" he said, as soon as he heard the name of the new pope. "It's Cardinal Ratzinger."

As he announced the news to people leaving the cathedral, Jameson said: "It's a time of celebration. We have a new leader not just for the church but also for the whole world."

In Rockne, Tex., the predominantly German American congregation of Sacred Heart Church was "overwhelmed with joy" said the pastor, the Rev. Krzysztof Bugno. "We have our German pope," Bugno said.

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