Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Students divided over Pope Benedict’s election

A Bavarian farm boy, a former member of the Hitler Youth, a humble priest and a conservative stalwart. All of these are descriptions of the new pope — Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany — whose appointment by the College of Cardinals was announced Tuesday.

The selection of Ratzinger instead of more liberal papal candidates raised debate among NU’s religious community. Central to the discussion was whether his conservative values would slow efforts to modernize the Catholic Church.

“Cardinal Ratzinger is an extremely conservative member of the Catholic Church, and constantly speaks about Orthodox principles and values,” said Music junior Patrick Keenan-Devlin.

Keenan-Devlin, the Associated Student Government president-elect, wants to make sure that the Church continues to move forward.

“My concern with the selection is whether he will be willing to listen to the more progressive men and women of the church,” he said.

Weinberg junior and Catholic student Maggie Dumin said the new pope’s conservative reputation isn’t a bad thing.

“He is a great choice,” Dumin said. “I support a more conservative view. This tradition has existed for so long and if it were to be more liberal, it could become a new religion.”

Father Kenneth Simpson, the chaplain and director of Sheil Catholic Center, said he is hesitant to label Church leaders.

“Conservative and liberal labels don’t actually work anymore,” Simpson said. “(Ratzinger) is an intellectual, a theologian and I hope that those talents come to play.”

Members of the campus Jewish community said they were surprised by the new pope’s history during Nazi Germany. But Ratzinger participated in the Hitler Youth against his will. He was drafted into the German army, and later deserted to become a priest.

“Our concern is that he should continue the great relationships Pope John Paul II had with the Jewish community,” said Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein, director of NU’s Tannenbaum Chabad House.

Prof. Phyllis Lassner, who teaches classes on the Holocaust, stressed that those outside the Church should not be too judgmental of the selection.

“It’s not for outsiders to say what is appropriate for the Church to do,” she said. “Ultimately the Church only answers to itself.”

Ratzinger donned the papal robes and presented himself on Tuesday for the first time as Pope Benedict XVI to thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

“Dear brothers and sisters, after the great Pope John Paul II, the cardinals have elected me — a simple, humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord,” Ratzinger told the crowd in Italian.

Ratzinger is known as a leading voice for conservatism within the Church. As head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, he fought against reform and liberal policies.

Ratzinger opposed allowing remarried Catholics to receive Communion and told U.S. bishops that it was appropriate to deny Communion to those who support a “manifest grave sin” such as abortion or euthanasia.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Reach Jason B. Gumer at [email protected].

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Students divided over Pope Benedict’s election