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Francisco Estrela asked for whom the bells of St. Peter's tolled, and was slightly disappointed to discover that it wasn't for his countryman Claudio Hummes.

Brazilian-born Hummes, the cardinal of Sao Paulo, was considered by many Vatican watchers to be a strong candidate to succeed Pope John Paul II as head of the Catholic Church. But with the election Tuesday of Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, hopes were dashed that the College of Cardinals might address certain demographics in choosing the next pontiff. "Any one of them (the candidates) would be welcome," said Estrela, porter at the Church of the Resurrection here, in the world's biggest Catholic country. "But it would have been better had it been a Brazilian."

Across the globe, messages of congratulation, declarations of relief and optimism, and pangs of regret in some quarters greeted the announcement of Ratzinger's elevation as history's 265th pope, Benedict XVI.

Many hailed the selection of a leader they regard as cut from the same theological and spiritual cloth as the man before him. Known for his loyalty to Pope John Paul II and his strict enforcement of that pontiff's teachings, Ratzinger seemed like a safe pick to continue shepherding the world's 1 billion Catholics in the direction set by his late predecessor and to build on his formidable legacy.

"He's fantastic," Marian McCann, a housekeeper in Belfast, Northern Ireland, said after attending a special celebratory Mass in honor of the new pontiff. "It's great that we have someone who was so close to the (former) pope. He speaks so strongly about our faith, and he'll call people to the church."

Ratzinger is "one of the orthodox ones," said Norma Tassinar, 67, of Buenos Aires. "He's going to keep the church the way it's been for 2,000 years, and that's good. It's going to help us because there are a lot of people who said we had to change directions."

Some of Tassinar's fellow Latin Americans were less enthusiastic. Many in this region felt that the time had come for a non-European pope, in recognition of a globalized church with many followers hailing from Latin America, Africa and other parts of the developing world. "We had hopes for a pope from among the Latin Americans, where the majority of the world's Catholics live, so there is a little disappointment," said Roberto Rodriguez Marchena, a government spokesman for the Dominican Republic.

He described the election of a pope 20 years older than John Paul II was at the time of his selection as a clear transitional move and speculated that "we will still have chances" for a pontiff in the near future.

And those hoping for a pope of a more liberal cast, one who might revisit thorny issues such as abortion, contraception and priestly celibacy, were disappointed as well. Ratzinger hewed to John Paul's conservative line on all those matters.

Hans Kueng, a dissident theologian and former colleague of Ratzinger's, called his election "a huge disappointment" for Catholics waging for reform. But he counseled patience. "Like the U.S. president, we should give him 100 days of learning," Kueng said.

Matthew Halliday, a young British Catholic, acknowledged that it would be a challenge to hold on to members of the flock who might be alienated by more conservative teachings. "We don't want to lose sheep," Halliday said at a Mass at Westminster Cathedral in London, a few blocks from Buckingham Palace. "So we have to get to work."

Many of the faithful said they were elated that the cardinals made their choice so quickly as a sign of unity. Celebrations were especially jubilant in Ratzinger's homeland, which has not had a native son on the throne of St. Peter for centuries.

"A German pope -- a miracle! It is a great joy," exclaimed Johannes Heesters, a 101-year-old actor who is Catholic.

"The fact that a German was elected pope is a proud moment, a deeply moving moment," said Angela Merkel, chairwoman of the country's opposition Christian Democrats. "I wish Pope Benedict XVI power, health and God's blessing."

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