World Reaction to Pope Mixed

Joy and disappointment loomed large in the world's reaction to Pope Benedict XVI, perceived as either the welcome embodiment of continuity in the Roman Catholic faith or the major obstacle in the path of necessary change.

The former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (search), known as the enforcer of orthodoxy during the long reign of Pope John Paul II, may surprise the world with his gentleness, some of his supporters said.

Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales (search) said he met Ratzinger during a gathering of bishops from around the world and found him "a very warm man."

But to some, the new pope was alarming.

"This election creates as much hope as fear," said Belgium's Deputy Prime Minister Laurette Onkelinx (search), who is responsible for government relations with religious communities.

"The fear is because of the past of the new pope — great defender of religious doctrine and a great conservative. One can fear he will not respond to the need for openness of the church," she said in an interview with Le Soir newspaper, insisting she was speaking in a personal capacity.

"He would not have been my candidate," said Desmond Tutu (search), the retired Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa, who had hoped for a pope from the developing world.

Ratzinger was known for holding "very strongly to a rigid line which most people found conservative," Tutu said. "We hope very much that sitting on the papal throne will have the effect of easing the rigidities."

Although the new pope said Tuesday his primary goal was to promote Christian unity, a French Protestant leader was wary.

"He will need to give us concrete signs of dialogue, leave behind his dress of the great inquisitor and wear the clothes of the pastor that he must be now," said Gill Daude, in charge of ecumenical relations for the Protestant Federation of France.

Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn (search) cautioned against categorizing church leaders on a "conservative-progressive" spectrum. "It's about something much bigger than such labels, and that is to be a witness of faith in today's world."

"Never in recent history has a pope been announced who has such a firmly established public image, and a negative one at that," said Irish Times columnist Breda O'Brien. "He ... may take some comfort from the fact that public expectation is so low that indeed, the only way is up."

An editorial in the Portuguese daily Diario de Noticias said the church "has to realize that the complex problems of today's world require dynamic responses. Ratzinger does not appear to have the profile nor the energy to provide the 'small signs' that so many people, inside and outside the church, are waiting for."

Jose Ramos Horta, foreign minister of the predominantly Catholic country of East Timor, welcomed the choice of Ratzinger.

"Although he is theologically conservative, he is also known as a very sensitive about Third World issues," Horta said while in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Priests and bishops from Iraq's tiny Christian minority converged on the Vatican's embassy in Baghdad to present congratulations.

"We are very happy at the election of a new pope in such a short time. The theology of this person in particular is deep and constant," said Luwis Zarco, the Catholic archbishop for the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk.

In the predominantly Roman Catholic Philippines, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (search) issued a statement expressing hope that Benedict will follow John Paul II's role as a peacemaker.

"May this be the seed for ending the conflicts that divide us," said Arroyo, who strongly supports the church's positions against abortion and birth control.

Yemeni Foreign Minister Abubakar al-Qirbi, whose predominantly Muslim nation has a small Christian minority, said he was sure the new pope would promote interfaith dialogue and cooperation.

"John Paul was instrumental in Islamic-Christian-Catholic dialogue, and I don't think there will be any attempt to derail that dialogue," said al-Qirbi, who was in Jakarta attending a summit of Asian and African leaders.

President Pervez Musharraf of Muslim-dominated Pakistan said that while divisions between religions and countries need political and socio-economic action to resolve, the pope can play a significant role.

"He can bring some harmony into the tough process, into the thinking of the world, which today is divided," Musharraf said during a visit to Manila.

The pope's participation in the Nazi youth movement rang alarms for some in Israel.

"White smoke, black past," said the headline in the mass circulation Yediot Ahronot.

But others played down that wartime role, in which the young Ratzinger, like all other German teenagers, was enrolled in the Hitler Youth (search).

"I don't believe that there is any room for doubt that [the pope] of today is very different than the days he belonged in the Hitler Youth," said Moshe Zimmerman, a professor of German history at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

China's government suggested relations with the Vatican could improve — if it cuts ties with Taiwan.

China, which suspended relations with the Vatican in 1951, demands that Chinese Catholics worship only in churches approved by a state-controlled church group that does not recognize the pope's authority.

"We hope under the leadership of the new pope, the Vatican side can create favorable conditions for improving the relationship between China and the Vatican," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a statement.