Traunstein, Germany Seminarians at the seminary where Joseph Ratzinger studied for the priesthood as a teenager in the 1940s erupted in cheers Tuesday at the news he had become the leader of the Roman Catholic church.
Students at St. Michael's seminary in Traunstein pumped their hands in the air, and the schools director was in tears.
“I'm completely overwhelmed. I can't fathom what happened,” Rev. Thomas Frauenlob said. “He eats with us. I can't grasp it. I know he's going to do a really good job.”
The class then joyfully ran together into church for a mass.
“It's fantastic that it's Cardinal Ratzinger. I met him when he was here before and I found him really nice,” said Lorenz Gradl, 16 years old, who was confirmed by the new pope in 2003.
Pope Benedict XVI was born in the town of Marktl Am Inn, but the family moved often because of his father's job as a police office and he wrote in his memoirs that he considers Traunstein his hometown. He visits the town often and stays in an apartment at the seminary.
People in Traunstein say they've seen Benedict XVI's softer side, despite his reputation as a theological hard-liner. Father Frauenlob said he has come to confirm teenagers and had spent time ministering to the old and sick.
Traunstein was where he returned after deserting the Germany army in 1945, and it was the place where he was taken prisoner by U.S. troops. He was released from a U.S. POW camp in June of that year and hitched a ride on a milk truck home.