Asian, African Catholics See New Pope Following in Predecessor’s Footsteps

Daily News Article   —   Posted on April 20, 2005

(by Patrick Goodenough, International Editor, April 20, 2005, – Catholics in Asia and Africa have welcomed German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s election as head of the Catholic Church, expressing confidence that Pope Benedict XVI will follow his much-loved predecessor’s approach in regions where traditional values are strongly held.

In the Philippines, Asia’s largest Catholic nation, the church’s teachings on abortion and family planning have significantly more support than they do among Catholics in some Western nations.

The country is frequently targeted by international non-governmental organizations campaigning to legalize abortion or promote artificial contraception. One such NGO, Catholics for a Free Choice, has already voiced concern that the election of Pope Benedict XVI will extend”the tradition of the punitive father.”

Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said in a statement welcoming the appointment of the new pope that she was certain he would be “a continuing beacon” to the world’s Catholics.

A spokesman for Cardinal Jaime Sin, formerly the most senior Catholic leader in the Philippines, said the cardinal — who is ailing and did not take part in the election conclave — noted with satisfaction that the new pope and his predecessor “belong to the same tradition.”

Pope John Paul II, who died early this month, paid two visits to the Philippines with the first, in 1981, widely seen as having prepared the ground for the “people’s power” revolution, spearheaded by Sin, that ousted President Ferdinand Marcos.

The second visit, in 1995, drew a record-breaking 4-5 million crowd for a World Youth Day celebration in a Manila park.

The mayor of Manila, Lito Atienza, is a pro-life activist, and declared on the death of Pope John Paul II that the city administration would steadfastly adhere to the “culture of life” espoused by the late pontiff.

On Wednesday, Atienza predicted that Pope Benedict XVI would follow in his predecessor’s pro-life footsteps.

That view was echoed in East Africa, where more of a quarter of the population is Catholic.

“Because of his closeness to John Paul, we expect him to take similar stand on the issues of abortion and family planning,” Kenyan Archbishop Ndingi Mwana a’Nzeki said of Pope Benedict XVI.

“We expect him to follow in the footsteps of Pope John Paul II who was close to Africa.”

Kenyan Catholics responded joyfully to the news, holding a celebratory mass at Nairobi’s Holy Family Basilica.

In neighboring Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni said he looked forward to working closely with the new pope. Museveni has been credited with bringing down his country’s HIV-AIDS infection rates by focusing on abstinence and faithfulness alongside the more commonly-promoted condom use.

The Vatican’s representative in Nigeria, Renzo Fratini, predicted Pope Benedict XVI would be as sensitive to the plight of Africa as had been the previous pope. Pope John Paul II visited Nigeria in 1982 and again in 1998.

The late pope’s many travels also took him to India, where some 16 million Catholics live among a billion Hindus and Muslims.

The All-India Catholic Union welcomed the choice of a new pope, whom the group’s president, John Dayal, described as “a pillar of peace, a strong votary of human rights and freedom of faith and a protagonist of the life of the unborn.”

“People of India and the Third World also see him as a strong interlocutor with the developed societies and economies,” Dayal said from New Delhi.

“As a strong pope, he will articulate our feeling and our needs in the globalized world. He will, we are sure, also work for the renaissance of the church in the modern world, and particularly in the West.”

(CNSNews Correspondent Stephen Mbogo in Nairobi contributed to this report.)

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