Welcome Pope Benedict
White smoke and bells signified the change in guard as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany was elected pope today, making him the first German pope in centuries and also the first pontiff of the new millennium.
"Dear brothers and sisters," he spoke, "After the great Pope John Paul II, the cardinals have elected me — a simple, humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord." A fitting beginning for both a papacy and an amazing chapter in a long life spent in service to God and the church.
I'm afraid he'll have quite a few people to win over however, as there's already heated discussion about his membership in the Hitler Youth during World War II.
In his memoirs, he wrote of being enrolled in Hitler's Nazi youth movement against his will when he was 14 in 1941, when membership was compulsory. He says he was soon let out because of his studies for the priesthood.
Two years later, he was drafted into a Nazi anti-aircraft unit as a helper, a common fate for teenage boys too young to be soldiers. Enrolled as a soldier at 18, in the last months of the war, he barely finished basic training before deserting.
So, if what he's written is true, I suppose then his major fault is in resisting quietly and passively. Should he have done something more radical and drastic? Made a bold statement against Hitler and the Nazi regime? Perhaps ... but it's hard to judge someone who lived in the long shadow of death camps and the Gestapo.
Pope Benedict XVI will be formally installed on Sunday at 10 a.m. (4 a.m. EST). It's got to be a terribly hard position to be in ... leading a world-wide congregation ... and I wish him all the best.