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Choice of Cardinal Ratzinger for Pope was clear, says U.S. cardinal

.- The choice of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger for Pope was clear “almost from the beginning,” Francis Cardinal George of Chicago told the press yesterday.

His grasp of world history and track record of protecting the faith for the past 24 years have prepared Pope Benedict XVI to lead in a time of worldwide cultural transitions, Cardinal George said in a news conference at the Pontifical North American College following the new Pope’s first mass.

When Karol Wojtyla was elected Pope 26 years ago, some of the most difficult challenges to the Church's mission came from the East, said the cardinal.

"Twenty-six years later, the most difficult challenges to the Church's mission come from the West. There is a man now very well prepared who understands Western society and the history of the world," he said.

He addressed the dismay expressed by critics who are looking for the Church to reform some of its teachings, reported the Chicago Tribune.

"Someone who is looking for changes in the essentials of faith, that's not going to happen under this Pope nor any other," Cardinal George said.

“We all knew Cardinal Ratzinger was a strong candidate because of his particular attitudes," said Cormac Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, archbishop of Westminster, London. “Only a few others could challenge him for his outstanding aspects," he added.

According to the Chicago Tribute, cardinals at the news conference said they expect the collegial atmosphere among bishops and cardinals to continue. They said Cardinal Ratzinger held his colleague's positions in high esteem and often sought their advice.

Cardinal George also recounted the first time he greeted Pope Benedict XVI in halting German. The Pope responded in English and told Cardinal George that he would renew a U.S. Church policy that gives bishops the power to discipline sexually abusive priests without having to appeal to the Vatican for their removal from the priesthood.

"He remembered our conversation and said he would attend to that, so he immediately zeroed in on our conversation," said Cardinal George, who was president of the U.S. bishops’ conference when the sexual abuse scandal erupted.

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