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Canadians reflect on new leader

Canadian Press with Globe and Mail Update

Susan Brundl is a Roman Catholic German Canadian — someone who might have been expected to greet Tuesday's announcement of a German pope with some celebration.

But the 40-year-old social worker from Toronto says she's deeply disappointed with the selection of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger as the man who will succeed Pope John Paul.

"It makes no difference to me if he's German or not, but a more progressive pope would have been a much better idea," said Ms. Brundl, who's grown disillusioned with her church due to its refusal to ordain women and to condone the use of condoms in the over-populated Third World, where millions are sick with AIDS or starving.

"I had really hoped they might have picked a Third World pope, someone who would have been more in touch with the pressing issues in the world."

Joy, consternation, disbelief: Canadian Catholics greeted news of Cardinal Ratzinger's ascension to the head of the Roman Catholic Church with a range of emotions.

The founder and editor of the Catholic pro-life news service, LifeSiteNews.com, said he was delighted with the choice.

"It has been a great joy for us to hear of his election," said John-Henry Westen, who sits on the executive of the largest pro-life group in Canada, Campaign Life Coalition.

"This Cardinal, having served the church as the protector of doctrine in the church for the last 24 or so years, has already shown his great love for the teachings of the church which he defends so strongly — issues of life and family."

Others say the pick of Cardinal Ratzinger is bad news for a church that is rapidly losing parishioners in North America and now risks further alienating young people.

"I am really distressed as are millions of progressives the world over," Rosemary Ganley, a Catholic feminist and assistant editor of the Catholic New Times.

"It's such a strong signal, almost a defiant signal, of more of the same. He and John Paul were like-minded, they seem almost fearful of the modern world."

"The church is bleeding women, and this choice is bad for the development of our faith."

But the Bishop of Calgary, Fred Henry, said Cardinal Ratzinger is misunderstood.

"He has the image of course of being the hammer, and I don't think that is really true to fact," said Bishop Henry, himself a conservative Catholic who has been an outspoken critic of everything from gay marriage to including eulogies in funeral services.

"I found him to always be a gentle man, a humble man and one who is very willing to listen ... he will be a good solid leader for the church."

In Ottawa, both Prime Minister Paul Martin and Opposition Leader Stephen Harper congratulated the new Pope. "On behalf of my family, my caucus colleagues, and the Conservative Party of Canada, I extend congratulations to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, to the Holy See, and to Catholics around the world," Mr. Harper said in a statement.

Mr. Martin welcomed the new Catholic leader on behalf of the Canadian government.

"We know that he will cherish and continue the legacy of Pope John Paul II, and we pledge our support to his all-important work in the service of humanity, both in promoting human rights and in fostering greater understanding between the peoples and the nations of the world," Mr. Martin said.

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