CA Hails New Pope after Bittersweet Conclave

April 22, 2005

TEGUCIGALPA – María Rodríguezgot her wish this week when her brother,Honduran Cardinal Oscar AndrésRodríguez, was not elected pope.She had told the daily Honduran pressin the days leading up the conclave inRome that she hoped her brother would notbe chosen as the next Holy See becausethat would make it very difficult to continueto see him regularly, and would put astrain on the family.But for many of the millions of CentralAmerican Catholics who this week watchedlive TV coverage of the Vatican proceedings,the selection of German Cardinal JosephRatzinger as the successor to Pope John PaulII had an element of bittersweet relief.OFFICIALLY, members of the clothand government leaders in CentralAmerica offered jubilant congratulatorystatements to Ratzinger – now PopeBenedict XVI – the Church and its faithfulfollowers.Among the rank-and-file Catholicfaithful in the region, the reaction was acombination of happiness for the newpope, and melancholy it wasn’t one of theirown.In South America, home to LiberationTheology, reaction to the naming of thearch conservative German was that of openfrustration from many of the more progressive-minded faithful, who had hoped to seethe church move into the future rather thangaze nostalgically at the past.HONDURANS greeted Ratzingerwith joy, but not without some wistfulness.In recent months many Hondurans hadbeen heartened by the idea that CardinalRodríguez, the archbishop of Tegucigalpaand a champion of the poor, was considereda shortlist candidate for pope (TT, April 8).“It’s our longing in Latin America to begiven the gift of having a pope from one ofour countries,” said Sister Juana Gómez, anun in a poor community on the edge ofTegucigalpa. “Our Cardinal has lots ofabilities that would qualify him to be thepope, but it’s God who chooses.”MANY Honduran and CentralAmerican faithful seemed to shareGómez’s opinion that one should notlament or dwell too much on the mysteriousways of the Holy Spirit.“We would have liked it, but that’s notwhat God wanted,” said Elisa Esperanza, alay Catholic visiting the Basilica of Suyapa.“It would have been good if they hadelected a Central American, but I have faiththat God had it planned for him (Ratzinger)to be chosen,” echoed Costa Rican housewifeNubia Mendoza. “I think the HolySpirit gave the cardinals guidance inchoosing the new pope.”OTHERS suggest that Rodríguez’sage, 62, and his coming from a small, poorcountry worked against him.Rodríguez, born in Tegucigalpa, issomewhat of a Renaissance man: he speakseight languages, plays the saxophone, andflies airplanes.Although socially conservative,Rodríguez has taken a strong stance indefending the rights of the poor, and hascampaigned for relief of Honduras’ externaldebt with the International MonetaryFund and other financial groups.IN El Salvador, the leftwing oppositionFarabundo Martí National Liberation Front(FMLN) asked Benedict XVI also to adopt“an option of the poor.”“Just as John Paul II did, we hope that(Benedict XVI) condemns neo-liberalismas a brutal system,” said FMLN coordinatorMedardo González, referring to theformer Pope’s famous statement about“savage capitalism.”In Nicaragua, where 80% of the country’s5.3 million identify as Catholic, BishopJorge Solórzano, of the Archdiocese ofManagua, told El Nuevo Diario that allNicaragua’s bishops met with Ratzinger in2001, and that he appeared to have a specialinterest and affection for Nicaragua.(Tico Times staff writers Robert Goodierand Tim Rogers contributed to thisreport).

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