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Conservative pope disappoints Swiss press

All the papers had an opinion on the new Pope

The Swiss papers have reacted to news of the appointment of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as the new Pope with a mixture of disappointment and scepticism.

The election of the arch-conservative theologian to the head of the world’s 1.1 billion Roman Catholics is widely seen as dashing hopes of reform within the Church – at least for the foreseeable future.

For many papers it is clear that Pope Benedict XVI is a “transitional” leader, and one who will continue the firm ideological line taken by his predecessor – and soul mate – Pope John Paul II.

The French-language Tribune de Genève and L’Express say many people who had hoped for reform will be “disappointed” over the choice of the German cardinal. For the Tribune de Genève this disappointment will also be strongly felt among Protestants who had hoped for a pope who would promote dialogue between the churches.

The mass-circulation Blick comments that the election of Ratzinger – “a man of dogma and doctrine”- is a cause of “deep concern”.

“In the past two decades as head of the congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, he has suppressed all dissenting voices in the Church,” it warns.

The Tages-Anzeiger echoes this sentiment: “There is a reason why Ratzinger is known as a ‘panzer cardinal’ and a ‘grand inquisitor’. During the last pontificate it was he who declared ideological war on feminism, contraception and homosexuality, as well as liberation theology in Latin America.”


For the Geneva-based Le Temps the election of Ratzinger was a vote in favour of “prudent continuity”, but it fears the cardinals “are running the risk that their choice to succeed John Paul II could negate the best aspects of his legacy”.

The Tages-Anzeiger goes even further. The election of the hardline cardinal could lead to “an exodus from the Church of all those on its fringes who had hoped for changes under this Pope”.

“The reform-minded Catholics will find themselves without a home, because the new Pope does not want a people’s Church,” it warns.

Despite the clear disappointment among the Swiss papers, some still offer a glimmer of hope.

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung says that by opting for a transitional Pope, the cardinals have bought themselves breathing space in which to consider the longer-term direction of the Church.

Choice of name

The Berner Zeitung draws consolation from the Pope’s choice of the name Benedict. The last pontiff with this name – Benedict XV – was known as a diplomat and negotiator, it says, and someone who during the First World War strove for dialogue between the warring nations.

The canton Valais paper Le Nouvelliste says it is likely that the new Pope will surprise everyone. It adds that during the Second Vatican Council of the early 1960s he was considered “open to reform”.

Reform is at the top of a wish-list which Blick presents to the new Pope. “We want a Pope who will engage in dialogue… a Pope with the courage to doubt and question himself… a Pope who will defend the poor and… who will do away with discrimination.”

Finally it hopes the new Pope “will not be obsessed with sex”. “Constantly harping on about sexual morality suffocates the liberating Christian message of love and hope,” it argues.

swissinfo, Morven McLean

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR