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PEOPLE CHEER BENEDICT XVI
NEW POPE WILL WORK TO CREATE MORE UNITY
PLANS TO REACH OUT TO OTHER FAITHS, CONTINUE VATICAN II REFORMS

Jubilant Catholics in St. Peter's Square, taking a break from the euphoric cheering and applause, predicted Tuesday that their new pope, Benedict XVI, would hold fast to an orthodox church and not deviate far from the traditionalist path blazed by his popular predecessor, John Paul II.

It took only four ballots for the 115 elector cardinals to choose their dean, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, as the 265th pontiff in church history.

In his first Mass as pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI pledged this morning in the Sistine Chapel to work closely with the cardinals in reviving faith and creating a more unified church.

The pope also plans to reach out to other faith groups, engage in theological dialogue and continue the reforms of the church's Second Vatican Council, the teachings of which were especially pertinent in the current globalized world, he said .

"From God I invoke unity and peace for the human family and declare the willingness of all Catholics to cooperate for true social development, one that respects the dignity of all human beings," the pope said in his homily, which he delivered in Latin. "I will make every effort and dedicate myself to pursuing the promising dialogue that my predecessors began with various civilizations, because it is mutual understanding that gives rise to conditions for a better future for everyone."

The private Mass with the cardinals, which was shown live by a Vatican video feed, followed Benedict XVI's introduction Tuesday evening to a crowd of more than 100,000 in St. Peter's Square.

Light gray smoke, later accompanied by the clanging of the three bells of St. Peter's Basilica, announced at 5:50 p.m. (11:50 a.m. EDT) that the new pope had been elected.

Wearing a wide stole the length of his vestments and a white skull cap, Benedict XVI emerged from behind a burgundy curtain onto the external loggia of the Hall of Blessings less than an hour later. His bright white hair made him easily recognizable. He raised his arms and clasped his hands above his head in a gesture of oneness with the people cheering wildly below.

"After the great Pope John Paul II, the Lord Cardinals have elected me, a simple and humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord," he said. "I am consoled by the fact that the Lord knows how to act, even with inadequate instruments, and above all I entrust myself to your prayers."

His installation will be held at 10 a.m. Sunday (4 a.m. EDT) in St. Peter's.

Ratzinger was one of the few cardinals known throughout the world, and he had gained a reputation as secretary for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as a hard-line enforcer of the church's teachings. He also was one of only three electors in the conclave who had been exulted to the rank of cardinal prior to John Paul II's papacy.

His profile in recent weeks grew even larger. He delivered a stirring homily at the funeral April 8 of John Paul II, and on Monday, during his homily in a special Mass before the start of the conclave, he condemned what he called a movement in society toward a "dictatorship of relativism."

The cardinals' choice of Ratzinger, who turned 78 Saturday, caught some Vatican observers by surprise, even though his name was regularly mentioned in the Italian press in the days leading up to the conclave.

At a news conference following dinner with the new pope, Cardinal Edward Egan of New York described Benedict XVI as "an extraordinary theologian" and an "unprepossessing, humble, loving gentleman."

Catholics in the square were overjoyed by the quick election, and Benedict XVI seemed to have immediate support.

When his name was announced, many in the crowd chanted in unison, "Benedict! Benedict!"

Anna Chan of Ottawa, Ont., shed tears as the bells rang and again when the new pontiff walked from behind the curtain to greet the crowd.

She and her friend, Monique Bisson, 27, flew from Canada for the election and had their fingers crossed for a Canadian cardinal to ascend to the papal chair.

But they were satisfied with the selection of Ratzinger.

"He was John Paul II's Peter, if anything," said Chan, 34. "He will continue the legacy of John Paul II, that's for sure."

Chan and Bisson brought a small suitcase full of water and religious items for Pope Benedict XVI's first papal blessing.

Also blessed was Bartholomew Wroblewski's copy of Ratzinger's 2004 book, "Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions," which he brought along to read during his pilgrimage from Poznan, Poland, for the historic papal vote.

"He's a man who's in the heart of the church. He has a good feeling for the church," said Wroblewski.

But the new pontiff is no clone of John Paul II, he said.

"He's a lot different. John Paul II was a bit mystical. Ratzinger I would say is a very deeply religious man, but in a different sort of way. Sober, I guess," said Wroblewski.

The white smoke that puffed Tuesday from chimney drew cheers, applause and, as on Monday, more than a little confusion over whether it was white -- the signal of a successful election -- or black -- the sign that another vote was necessary.

The smoke slowed and the giant bell of St. Peter's chimed at 6 p.m. as usual. The crowd buzzed with anticipation. Then the smoke intensified again and by 6:04 p.m. all three bells were swinging rapidly, confirmation of the election. Shouts of "Viva il Papa!" or "Long live the pope!" accompanied.

e-mail: jtokasz@buffnews.com

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