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20/04/2005

From the Feuilletons is a weekly overview of what's been happening in the German-language cultural pages and appears every Friday at 3 pm. CET.. Here a key to the German newspapers.

Benedict XVI Special

This morning's papers are full of stories about the eighth German Pope, Benedict XVI, formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. The last German Pope was Adrian VI, who hailed from Utrecht, then part of the Holy Roman Empire. Adrian VI was appointed during the Reformation and died in 1523. Pope Benedict XVI is the spiritual leader of more than 1.086 billion Catholics worldwide. Here a selection from the papers:

Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 20.04.2005


"Four ballots do not suggest a divided electoral body, unsettled by the death of the charismatic John-Paul II, only able to agree on a new pontiff after a long struggle", writes 'ach' (the journalist's initials). "The electing cardinals have spared Benedict XVI the blemish of being an 'awkward solution' or 'compromise candidate', only agreed on after a painful search. Joseph Ratzinger can take office with the certainty that a large majority of cardinals look on him kindly. From them at least he will encounter little resistance, in contrast to the cold wind blowing on him from the Catholic church of his own country."

'eg' points out that the new Pope has an "ambivalent reputation" in Germany. "Nowhere else is the conservativeness of the archbishop of Munich, who was appointed prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1981, so openly contested. Tensions culminated in the 1990s, during the agonising dispute over abortion. Although Ratzinger and Pope John-Paul II had identical views, it was Ratzinger more than any other who resented Rome's apodictic attitude. In June 1998, he asked the German bishops to submit a new concept for the counselling of pregnant women. He believed that Catholic organisations should stop issuing the authorisations required for a woman to have a legal abortion. The bishops obeyed reluctantly. Since this conflict, many Germans – among those aware of goings on within the church – see in Ratzinger the 'Great Inquisitor from Marktl am Inn', as the Süddeutsche Zeitung called him."


Süddeutsche Zeitung, 20.04.2005

Matthias Drobinski writes: "Ratzinger stands for a church with a clear profile, a church that preserves its identity. His sermon immediately before the beginning of the conclave left no doubt on this score. He said that a strong faith, untouched by conflicting opinions, can help against the 'dictatorship of relativism'. A pessimistic programme. The name Benedict tells another story however. Benedict XV (1914 – 1922) was a Pope of peace, who tried to foster unity in a world torn apart by strife." Drobinski points out, "Ratzinger did not seek the office, he is not obsessed with power, he is more of a shrewd intellectual who cannot understand that others can have arguments too."


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 20.04.2005

"Ratzinger is the Counter-Reformation personified – armed not with fire and a sword, but with the power of the soul", comments Daniel Deckers. "As prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he enjoyed the unconditional trust of John-Paul II for over two decades. In the Pope's name, he took up the fight against the aberrations of Latin American liberation theology, against interpretations of Vatican II that sought to use the understanding of the church as "community" against its own hierarchical structures, against an ecumenism that no longer recognised one church, but many churches, against a type of Catholicism that would render the light of the faith impure. At least externally, the cardinal reacted in an even-tempered way to negative criticism by bishops and lay people. Rarely did he let it show that the burden he believed he must bear in the service of God weighed heavily upon him. Reports suggest that he occasionally asked the Pope to free him from this yoke, and grant him the liberty he enjoyed for many years as a teacher of theology. But the Pope did not let him go – he needed him, although they were often in disagreement. Because Ratzinger did not agree with everything the charismatic Pope expected of himself and his church. The admission of guilt for the sins of Christians through the ages in the year 2000, joint prayers with other religious leaders – Ratzinger went along reluctantly with these things."


die tageszeitung, 20.04.2005

The tageszeitung's front page headline: Oh my God! Ratzinger new Pope. Philipp Gessler writes: "What can we now expect from the reactionary churchman? His last sermon before the conclave, denouncing the 'dictatorship of relativism', shows where things will lead: Ratzinger will try to seal the bulkheads of the Holy Roman Church from the modern world – without the charisma and the humanity that characterised John-Paul II. No good news for women, homosexuals and Aids patients, to name just a few. Shortly after his election, Ratzinger, who calls himself Benedict XVI, announced to the faithful at St. Peters Square: 'I am only a simple, humble worker in the Lord's vineyard.' Simple he is not, humble hardly – and if there's one thing the intellectual is not, it's a worker. The church is in for hard times."


Berliner Zeitung, 20.04.2005

Arno Widmann comments: "Hardly anyone was as confident as Cardinal Ratzinger about helping the church triumph. No one has had such an autocratic, authoritarian hold on the apparatus of the Vatican as the new Benedict XVI. According to the 'Initiative Church from Below', his election is 'a catastrophe'. Benedict XVI will read that and smile, thinking: you're right. For you it will be a catastrophe. When Jesus gathered his apostles, summoning them to announce that the kingdom of heaven is nigh, he said: 'Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; therefore be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves!' Benedict XVI is as shrewd as a serpent. Among the believers he has behaved like a wolf among sheep so far. But no one is saying he is innocent as a dove."


Other stories

Frankfurter Rundschau, 20.04.2005

Richard Wagner is familiar with the arguments Chancellor Schröder is citing to justify lifting the weapons embargo on China; he heard the same ones in the 1980s, when the "fruitful dialogue" with the SED (communist party in East Germany) was attempted and the dissidents were ignored. The same game is being played today. But whose good is being served?, asks Wagner. "What good is it for Germany to give up its human rights policy in order to do business with the supporters of capitalism without democracy in China or Putin's authoritarian Russia? The companies that are producing in China have long since divorced themselves from the national economy with the help of a dilettantish balance law passed by Schröder's government, which has resulted in big companies not having to pay hardly any taxes in Germany. Their investments are in China anyway."


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 20.04.2005


60 years after the war, new Stalin memorials are being erected. Kerstin Holm writes that the more abstract the horror becomes with historical distance, the more Stalin is becoming a national symbol of integration: "Duma spokesman Gryslow honoured the dictator as an 'unusual person', the likes of which is missing in Russia today. During the war, Stalin defined international policy, even though his 'domestic excesses' were not pretty, said Gryslow on the occasion of the 125th birthday of the 'father of the people'. The people's desire for greatness and order is being sated by new Stalin memorials which will be shooting up across the country in May. In east Siberian Krasnojarsk, a former Gulag metropole, a monument with the inscription 'from thankful followers' is planned."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 20.04.2005

Marina Rumjanzewa reports that the Muscovites have had enough of the architectural mutilation of their city. Roughly 400 historical buildings have been torn down in the recent past, including beauties like the Hotel "Moskwa". (Here a chronic of its destruction in Russian). To compensate, the Mayor of Moscow Juri Luschkow has announced the dawn of a new architectural era: the "Luschkow-Empire" or "torte style". "This refers to luscious pink-white yellowish creations coated with all sorts of embellishments. They are crawling with pillars, pylons or pilasters and every second building has a little tower: in the last few years, some 250 have been planted on Moscow roofs." The Muscovites have had enough."They are slowly coming to agree on what they don't want and what they don't find attractive. They are less clear, however, on what they want and what they do find attractive. Western architecture is not necessarily taken as a model to follow. Many find it to be 'dry geometry'. They are not familiar with its formal vocabulary."

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