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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 April, 2005, 08:57 GMT 09:57 UK
South Asia welcomes new pontiff
Pope Benedict XVI
Regional Catholic leaders welcome the continuity
South Asian political and religious leaders have welcomed the Vatican's choice of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as successor to Pope John Paul II.

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf said he hoped the new Pope would bridge the divide between the West and Islam.

German-born Cardinal Ratzinger was elected as the 265th pope on Tuesday in a fourth round of voting.

His choice will please traditionalists but disappoint those hoping for change on issues such as birth control.

On behalf of the Afghan people, I wish His Holiness Benedict XVI every success as he assumes his new responsibility
President Hamid Karzai

"I hope the Pope will help to bring harmony between the two worlds [Islam and Christianity]," Gen Musharraf said in the Philippines where he is on a brief state visit.

Gen Musharraf added: "The Pope can bring harmony to the way people think and perhaps create a better environment to solve disputes between peoples."

Evarist Pinto, archbishop of Karachi, said: "The new Pope... has unshakable faith in the Church. We believe that he will follow the footsteps of the former pope for peace and tranquillity in the world."

About 1.5m of Pakistan's 150m population are Roman Catholic.

Preserving legacy

Bangladesh's Catholic leader also welcomed the election of the Pope and said pontiffs need not come from developing nations.

"Popes are not elected on any political basis. Catholics do not think of colour or race, we concentrate on spiritual rather than political identity," Archbishop Michael Rozario told the AFP agency.

"He worked closely with the previous pontiff and so his line of thinking is similar, which we very much welcome."

In India, a Catholic leader said that the Pope would preserve the legacy of John Paul II.

"One aspect of this election is that there will be a continuity of the Church's policies as he was associated with Pope John Paul for nearly 30 years," Dolphy D'Souza of the Mumbai (Bombay)-based All India Catholic Union told Reuters.

Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai has also sent a message of congratulation to the Pope.


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