Pretoria, South Africa The Southern African Bishops Conference have sent the following message: The Catholic Church in Southern Africa celebrates the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, as the successor of the apostle Peter in Rome with the name of Pope Benedict XVI. In his long standing service to the Church as a bishop and in the last 25 years as the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has shown himself as a defender of faith and a staunch advocate for the preservation of the Gospel values embedded in the Catholic tradition. Pope Benedict XVI's long time friendship and acquaintance with the teaching of the late John Paul II, are a solid foundation and inspiration to the newly elected pope to continue the work of promoting and defending the sanctity of life, to stand against violence and war as a way of solving conflicts, to be the voice of the voiceless in the world and to build bridges among peoples of different religions. United with the whole Church in the world, the Catholic Church in Southern Africa offers prayers to the loving Father in heaven for Pope Benedict XVI: that his ministry as the shepherd of the Catholic Church and world spiritual leader may be fruitful and successful. Senegal "The election of Pope Benedict 16th came as a surprise in Senegal because he is not very well known here" said Oblate Missionary Fr Tonino Mazzeo from Dakar. "But I am sure that the new Pope's deep spirituality will win the hearts of Africans. Especially if he continues to give voice to his profound spirituality as he did when he composed this year's meditations for the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday," Fr Tonino added. "The events of the funeral of John Paul II and the election of Benedict 16th have been closely followed by the Catholics of Senegal. I took copies of the video of the funeral of Pope John Paul II to several distant villages and the Catholics were extraordinarily grateful and deeply moved. Here in Senegal where the people are 90% Muslim, Catholics had become proud of their Pope and Muslims also saw him as a great man who had words of hope for everyone," Fr Tonino concluded. Sudan "I am very happy for the election of Benedict 16th" Bishop Macram Max Gassis of El Obeid in southern Sudan said. "This Pope represents continuity with the papacy of John Paul II. He will safeguard the authentic faith of the Church, fundamental for serious inter-religious dialogue." Bishop Gassis has met the new Pope in person. "Five years ago I had an appointment at the Secretariat of State. As I came out of the lift I bumped into Cardinal Ratzinger, whom I knew was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He greeted me warmly and held out his hand. He asked where I came from and when I said I was a Bishop in Sudan he said: "I think often of your situation and I pray constantly for Sudanese Catholics". Some described the new Pope as being aloof and cold. This is quite untrue. He is a man of profound humanity and great spirituality and he is very kind," the Bishop concluded. Ulan Bator, Mongolia Mgr Wenceslao Padilla, Prefect Apostolic of Ulan Bator announced the news of the election of Benedict 16th to the 300 Catholics in Mongolia, at his first Mass yesterday morning at 6.30am. He said: "When we heard the news through the media here in Mongolia it was the middle of the night, two in the morning." Mgr Padilla said: "We are very happy to have a new Pope. I know too that I will receive messages of congratulation from civic leaders and leaders of other religions. We hope with all our heart that the new Pope will come to visit this little flock in the in Mongolia. This was a desire of the late Pope John Paul II. We hope too that Benedict 16th will follow in the footsteps of his predecessor." New Delhi, India "The leadership of Pope Ratzinger will be dynamic, creative and concrete. We are truly happy for the election of Benedict 16th. Catholics in India offered prayers to accompany the Conclave at which three Cardinals took part. Today we are overjoyed" Father Babu Joseph, spokesman of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India told Fides. "As Cardinal Ratzinger he always promoted the Church and Christian values especially in the social and cultural field. Today the Church in India looks ahead certain that Benedict 16th is a gift of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and we pray and hope that his presence, his word and pastoral work will help the Church in India to grow and flourish as well ! as promote the good of the universal Church and all humanity." New Jersey, USA Mgr Joseph Chiang, head of the National Pastoral Centre for the Chinese Apostolate in New Jersay, USA, issued the following statement: "We are very happy because the universality of the Church is confirmed and also because Pope Benedict 16th is very close in thought and spirit to John Paul II which is important at this time for the Church in need of continuity and stability as well as renewal. The Holy Spirit has given us the right man in Pope Benedict 16th . What is more being European he will help Europe rediscover and re-appreciate its profound Christian roots. For Catholics in China I am sure there are good prospects. In the meantime we assure the new Pope Benedict 16th of our prayers for him and for the boat of Catholic Church he has been called to guide." Guadalajara, Mexico "People rushed to the main city square the thank God for giving the Church a new shepherd after his own heart. People cried for joy when they realised the smoke from the Sistine chapel chimney was white" Fr Francisco Gonzales of the archdiocese of Guadalajara in Mexico said. He added: "The Lord listens to the prayers of his people and he answered quickly. Masses of thanksgiving will be celebrated in every parish and community to thank God for giving us this new shepherd in the person of Benedict 16th who will confirm the people in their fidelity to God and His will. We know the new Pope will be enlightened and strengthened so he can shoulder with fervour, conviction and enthusiasm the difficult mission God has entrusted to him." Source: SABC/Fides
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