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In the Vatican, a New Leader and a Strong Legacy

Wednesday, April 20, 2005; Page A24

Regarding the new pope, Benedict XVI:

The former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger is a man rich in spiritual passion, humility, self-denial, and love for the cause of God and of man.

He brings to the papacy a brilliant philosophical and, in particular, theological mind that has embraced a vision of broad spiritual and ecclesiastic horizons: personal holiness extended to the supreme sacrifice, missionary outreach combined with concern for unity, and the necessary integration of spiritual charisma and institutional ministry.

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His episcopal motto, "Co-Worker of the Truth," has guided him in his efforts to defend and promote the Catholic faith and its morals against the errors of modernity. He also has worked to encourage studies aimed at increasing knowledge of the faith so that issues arising from the progress of science and civilization can be answered in the light of the Word of God.

The aim for which he strives always has been to serve the truth, seek to know it ever more thoroughly and make it ever more widely known.


Hamilton, Ontario

In his April 11 letter, Bill S. Mikhail made two mistakes in discussing the Vatican's influence in the Soviet Union.

First, Latvia is no longer a majority Lutheran country. Catholics have been the largest religious group in that country since the mid-1980s (about 500,000, but certainly more than the Lutheran church, whose membership has been dropping since the 1940s). This was acknowledged in 1985 by Boris Pugo, then head of the Latvian Communist Party.

Second, the Vatican did have more influence in Soviet lands than Mr. Mikhail indicated. For example, in 1983 Pope John Paul II named Julijans Vaivods, a Latvian bishop, as the first cardinal in Soviet history (without direct approval from Moscow), and the Catholic Church in the Soviet Union (except for Lithuania) was administered from the Riga archdiocese for many decades.

John Paul may not deserve credit for all of this, but his Soviet policy was wise and multifaceted.



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