World leaders look hopefully to new pontificate

.- As the world looks to Pope Benedict XVI to fill the giant shoes of Pope John Paul II, leaders from around the world—many of whom recently returned home from John Paul II’s funeral—are expressing optimism for the Church and its new shepherd.

President Bush yesterday, speaking with his wife Laura at his side, called the new pope, formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, “a man of great wisdom and knowledge…a man who serves the Lord.”

He recalled Cardinal Ratzinger’s homily at Pope John Paul II’s funeral which, he said, touched our hearts and the hearts of millions.”

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said of the new native German pope, “this is a great honor for Germany.”

He added that, “In Pope Benedict XVI, a Pope has been chosen who knows the world Church like no one else. He is a great, world-renowned theologian. Pope Benedict XVI is a worthy successor to Pope John Paul II.”

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan noted that, “His Holiness brings a wealth of experience to this exalted office. The United Nations and the Holy See share a strong commitment to peace, social justice, human dignity, religious freedom and mutual respect among the world's religions.”

“The secretary-general”, he said, “looks forward to the contributions His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI will make in strengthening those values.”

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said: “I certainly express the feelings of all Italians, and am particularly delighted, when I present Your Holiness with the warm and respectful homage of the Italian government.”

Meanwhile, South African President Thabo Mbeki noted that “Pope Benedict XVI assumes leadership at a critical time in which the world's collective wisdom and leadership including that of the religious community is most important to face up to challenges of deepening poverty and under-development afflicting many people of the world.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that, “We congratulate his Holiness and wish him every success. We hope the strong and historic relations between Palestine and the Vatican will be as strong as ever and that the Vatican's support for a just peace in the Holy Land will continue.”

Likewise, the U.K.’s Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks said that We hope that he will continue along the path of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II in working to enhance relations with the Jewish people and the State of Israel.”

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