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A Key Sign of Germany's "Definitive Return," Says Cardinal. Head of German Episcopate Pledges Support to Benedict XVI
ROME, APRIL 20, 2005 (Zenit.org). - Cardinal Karl Lehmann sees the election of Pope Benedict XVI as "an important sign of Germany's definitive return to the world community of nations," six decades after World War II.

Cardinal Lehmann, president of that country's episcopal conference, promised the newly elected Pope, a native of Bavaria, "all the help of his German homeland."

For the cardinal, one of the 115 electors in the conclave that elected Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope on Tuesday, the papal name the latter chose "is a real surprise."

Cardinal Lehmann relates the name to Pope Benedict XV "who, although he was unable to realize his concrete objectives of peace, acted amply in any case as a Pope of accord and reconciliation, notably fostering the prestige of the Holy See in a difficult period."

Benedict XV (1914-1922) succeeded Pope Pius X as World War I was starting. In his encyclical "Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum" (1914), he appealed for peace and analyzed the causes of war. In the ecumenical field, he established the octave of prayer for Christian unity in 1916. He took his name from a patron of Europe, Benedict of Nursia (480-547).

"After the election of the new Pope Benedict XVI, I expressed my most sincere congratulations and have promised our prayer to ask God's blessing for him, as well as all the help of his German homeland," said Cardinal Lehmann in Rome.

"At the same time, like Cardinal Meisner, I have expressed the hope that he will come to Cologne in August for the 20th World Youth Day," he added.

For Cardinal Lehmann, bishop of Mainz, "it is fortunate that almost 60 years after the end of World War II -- let us think particularly of the day of German capitulation -- a German cardinal has been elected to the highest office of the Church."

"Many did not think this could happen after the terrible events, still perceptible, that occurred in the 20th century in Germany," he said. "Because of this, it is also an important sign of Germany's definitive return to the world community of nations, which is also reflected in the Catholic Church.

"We want to thank the cardinal electors from our heart for this important sign. It might encourage our country from many points of view."

Cardinal Lehmann continued: "The German bishops, and with them above all Catholic Christians, congratulate themselves with the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, for his election as Bishop of Rome and 264th Successor of St. Peter, head of the Catholic Church and Patriarch of the West. We wish him the fullness of the gifts of the Holy Spirit to lead the Church in the heart of the present world.

"[The] members of the conclave, who came from all the continents, elected in the dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, a man of the Church who is for them the living symbol of the Church's continual testimony, supported by sacred Scripture and the ecclesiastical Tradition of all the centuries, a courageous guarantor of the solidity of the faith despite all the transformations, a gifted theologian, known for decades throughout the world and one of the closest aides of John Paul II who, a few days before his death, in what was the last conversation between them, thanked him for his precious contribution."

Cardinal Lehmann alluded to the work carried out by Cardinal Ratzinger as prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: "He has fulfilled one of the most delicate tasks, namely, to maintain the essence of the Catholic faith intact amid all the spiritual, social and theological changes."

And although "it is almost obvious that, despite the present pluralism of opinions, also in the Church herself, not all have been able or wished to follow him, ? he has had everywhere, including in the opposition, respect for his theological merits and recognition of his anti-conformist courage in the dialogue and discussion with contemporary forces," added Cardinal Lehmann.

Cardinal Lehmann also mentioned "the important role" played by Joseph Ratzinger "for the renewal of the Church during the Second Vatican Council."

"There is no doubt whatsoever of principle on his position in regard to efforts and ecumenical conversations with the Reformation and Eastern Churches," he said. "It is demonstrated in his numerous publications over more than 50 years."