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Queens Catholics praise their new German pope

In the end, Joseph Ratzinger of Germany was designated by his fellow cardinals as the new patriarch of the Roman Catholic Church. The 78-year-old cardinal succeeded the charismatic John Paul II, who died earlier this month at age 84, and took the name Benedict XVI to become the 265th pope in church history.In Queens, Catholics and other Vatican watchers had eagerly anticipated the naming of the new patriarch. "We couldn't wait for the curtain to open," said Karen Davis, the secretary at Corpus Christi, a Woodside church, referring to the unveiling ceremony for the new pope on a Vatican balcony. "It would be like expecting a baby."At Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in Ridgewood, Monsignor Edward Ryan jokingly answered the phone with "gutentag," a German greeting and a nod to the new pope's nationality. There is a substantial Germany colony in the Ridgewood area.Pope John Paul II was a Pole, and the growing Polish community in Ridgewood and Glendale regarded him as one of the country's heroes. Ryan said he had not yet noticed a similar pride from Germans, but noted his Polish congregants would have to get used to having a pope from a neighboring country."It's a time for them to readjust," the monsignor said.For years Ratzinger was Pope John Paul's righthand man as a hardline defender of traditional church doctrine. He does not seem to be open to discussions on women becoming priests or the laity being able to marry, for example. And while he is said to physically resemble his predecessor, many have noted he does not seem to have the same charisma."From the back you would think he was John Paul," Davis said. "He is conservative and he may even be more conservative. Obviously that's the way the cardinals wanted to go and we're all fine with that."But Ryan said things did not always turn out as expected."Sometimes you get a very different pope from the man you knew as cardinal," he said. He described the new pontiff as a "very learned man" who can explain Christian beliefs in "simple terms."Across the borough, Catholic churches were expected late this week to hold special thanksgiving masses for the new pope.Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of the Diocese of Brooklyn, which also covers Queens, said church followers were blessed with their new pontiff."As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict was a close collaborator with his predecessor, Pope John Paul, and understood the depth and breadth of his theological and philosophical teaching," he said. "As our new pontiff, he will continue to guide the church with the same wisdom."Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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