Hundreds of readers from across Europe have sent us their reaction to the election of Joseph Ratzinger as the new Pope.
Here is a selection of their comments.
The following comments reflect the balance of views received:
Why do so many liberals wish for a Pope who will unthinkingly follow the fashionable fad of the moment? Is it because they hope that blindly following trendy thinking will lead to emasculation, rather similar to what has happened to some non Catholic Churches in the West?
We may think we know Ratzinger the Cardinal - we can but wait to discover who Benedict XVI is.
Dunmarris, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
Cardinal Ratzinger's record has shown that in all likelihood he will undo all of John Paul II's good work. He is intolerant and ultraconservative. He will drag the Catholic Church back into the dark ages. This is a shame upon Germany.
Darryl LeCount, Paderborn, Germany
The new Pope said that he will follow traditional ways. Priests in the past were permitted to marry. If he wants to follow origins of his Church, he must re-allow that.
Zlatko, Rijeka, Croatia
There isn't much to be said about the new Pope yet. We all hope he is one of the best ones. The truth is, we still mourn for Pope John Paul II, as he was not only a good Pope, but a great person as well.
Sabina, Dublin, Ireland
I am interested by the views of those that suggest that the decision making process seems too quickly. Exactly how long do such critics suggest for the decision to be made?
Sean Harris, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
As a Catholic, the whole security of your faith is that you rely on Christ to guide the Church. It isn't a political affair, and we shouldn't treat it like one. It's the Pope that God wants that matters. And He wants Benedict XVI. We're fine with that.
Hilary, London, UK
Coming from a family of atheists, I have found it difficult to see the good side of religion in a world where it seems to cause so much division. The past few weeks, however, have helped me see the way religion can help to bring thousands of people of all backgrounds together. The events in Rome have certainly opened my eyes and taught me a little more about the world in which I live. As for whether the new Pope is a good choice, I can only congratulate him on refusing to compromise his beliefs. At least he will not be a hypocrite.
Fundamentalism - whether it be Christian, Muslim, Hindu or secular - constitutes a grave danger to humankind, is intellectually dishonest and erroneous. All this talk of religious truths and moral absolutes fails to recognise that there are no such things. It is nothing but simple thinking for simple minds. Ratzinger was chosen by men to lead a human organisation created out of the ashes of the Roman Empire, and enforced through military conquest. Spare us, please, all the references to the guiding hand of the Holy Spirit.
Francis, London, England
To all those who feel disenchantment with the choice of new pontiff - might now be the time to stop looking to another human being for guidance, and instead evaluate the moral, correct way to live for yourselves? To live life in fear of God is not a virtue; to serve your fellow Man as each opportunity presents itself is. I wish Benedict XVI well in his pursuit of his own personal best.
Amanda, Staffs, UK
Am I missing something? The life experience of the new Pope has been limited to the suffocating atmosphere of the Vatican for the last twenty five years. To expect him to be able to have a valid opinion on the world's problems is highly unrealistic.
Garry McGibbon, Halifax, United Kingdom
Let us hope that Pope Benedict XVI's conservative views will mellow now he is in office. The Catholic Church needs to enter the 21st Century alongside the rest of the world and help fight the AIDS pandemic in Africa and South America. Unfortunately, with Ratzinger's views this probably won't happen.
Tom Alexander, Glasgow, Scotland
Thank Goodness! Here is a man who will not cater for the needs of the modern world. Instead, he will teach us that we meet Christ in the dark room. He comes to us where we truly need him, liberating us from our sinful, narrow-minded preoccupation with our lowest, most selfish desires.
Piers Cadell, Bodmin, Cornwall
It is disgusting that someone who fought for the Nazis should be elected as Pope after the courageous John Paul II. This election will offend many and reflects very badly on the Catholic Church.
B Smith, UK
I feel shocked and saddened that probably the most right wing, hard line cardinal has been elected as the new leader of the Church to which I once belonged. I have been told via Ratzinger's office that my homosexuality is morally and intrinsically evil. But my loving, committed and monogamous relationship of 18 years could never be described that way. An African bishop recently said that the use of condoms in Africa was a bigger evil than the spread of AIDS, but try telling that to the orphans of mothers who have died of AIDS, who are themselves infected and waiting to die.
Simon O'Donovan, Cardiff, Wales
When a group of people I hardly know gathered before the TV and his name was announced there was shock and disbelief, nobody cheered and all looked sullen. These people represent a wide spectrum of Maltese Catholics but it is clear none wanted Ratzinger. I can only see more people leaving the Church.
Julian Manduca, Valletta, Malta
It has been reported that the new Pope's brother said recently that Cardinal Ratzinger did not want the job of the Pope and that he wanted to retire and write books on theology. It must have been a difficult decision for him to accept the commission God offered him. I imagine Pope Benedict XVI knows full well the burdens and responsibilities of the papacy from watching John Paul II from so close. This Pope should be shown the utmost respect for taking on such an awesome responsibility at the age of 78.
John, Cambridge, UK
We'll have to wait and see how he proceeds, but I suspect that the new pope will be divisive and bring to a head the fault lines already in place in the Roman Catholic Church. I believe it was John Paul II's personality that held the Church together.
Anglicanus, West Yorkshire
I'm delighted with the choice of the cardinals. Pope Benedict XVI will help to bring stability to an unstable world. God Bless Him.
Elizabeth Linford, Nottingham
As a young man living in the UK I stopped practicing my Catholic faith in my twenties as I got caught up in a hedonistic lifestyle only wanting amusement and pleasure. I found that lifestyle very empty and came back to my faith in my late twenties. I know many Catholics in the west want a liberal Pope but they should remember that Jesus Christ was no liberal, indeed he was a radical who told all humans that they must carry their cross and follow the narrow path. While I would have liked to see a Pope from the Third World, I welcome our German Pope and my God Bless you Pope Benedict XVI.
John, Bucks, UK
I don't agree with people who say it was a mistake to choose a hardliner. Instead of being reactionary, I simply think he's protecting the Church's values in a world where people lost their marks. What do you expect - that a Pope will support abortion? On the other hand I agree cardinals should have chosen someone younger who would convince crowds much easier than an old man.
Michel Zacharz, Paris, France
I am thrilled that such a great theologian who is a truly humble man has been chosen to follow John Paul the Great. I have met the cardinal and it was an experience I will not forget. Ad multos annos!
Christine M Fletcher, St Ives, Cambs
I think that the Catholic Church have made a mistake in electing a 78-year-old man to be the next Pope. At a time when young people are leaving the Church in their thousands, a younger man should have been picked for the role, who would have a sustained period of time in the role to get the faithful back on board. Realistically, how long does this man have until yet another man needs to be picked? An opportunity missed.
Alan Rafferty, Erskine, Scotland
It's almost like a director being made chairman - when you consider the influence the new Pope had on John Paul since 1981 as he was the Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith.
Kevin F, Glasgow, UK
This was a fine gesture considering that Ratzinger is one of the few remaining "insiders" from the second Vatican Council - an event which completely changed the whole Church not so long ago. Let us hope he has preserved the moderately reformative spirit of that age. There is nothing more dangerous than hurry in this world.
Olof, Lund, Sweden
Benedict XVI's was a highly predictable election. God has guided the conclave in preservation of his eternal values. The comments of some of your correspondents betray their 'ageism' and anti-Catholicism. No Catholic - including the cardinals - will be surprised.
Maurice Green, Burton, England
As a priest in the Church of England, I welcome the election of Cardinal Ratzinger to the office of Bishop of Rome and Pope. I believe he will stand firm for central Christian values and if his funeral homily is anything to go by, will be thoroughly Christ centred. Sadly though, I believe relationships with the Anglican Church may suffer as he has not shown himself to be in favour of close relationships.
The Revd Leonard Payne, Wrentham, England
As a progressive intellectual myself, I would rather listen to an intellectual white Pope than a radical black Pope and so should the rest of the world.
Simon Charles Rudman, Thrapston , England
A brave decision. I would have thought a South American candidate would have been more media friendly, and a liberal candidate better for non-believers. But at the end of the day, the Church shouldn't be the plaything of fashion. Because moral laxity is on the increase, why should the Church have to approve of it under the guise of being open and liberal?
Nick Scahill, Hove
Why all the fuss? He's just another human being and as fallible as the rest of us. Any suggestion otherwise shows up organised religion for the farce it is.
John Thompson , Chester, UK
One of the worse decisions ever, we are going backwards, not forwards. We need a Pope that will meet the needs of people. Not a Pope that is ultra conservative and blames humanities problems on materialism, but a Pope that will change, integrate, and restore people's humanity. We need a church that can integrate theology and psychology, and reach out to those who are suffering.
Stephen Kenny, Cork City, Ireland
I praise any man who sticks to his convictions. Although at times, I may disagree with that man, it is important to be true to one's word. The new Pope appears to be that man. A Church that is 2,000 years old should not change certain elements of its doctrine just to appease the liberal minded.
Quinn McCoy Hansen, Torres Vedras, Portugal
May The Holy Ghost and Our Lady be praised! A true defender of doctrine who sees that truth is not dependent on fashion or public opinion.
George Jenner, Colwyn Bay, Wales
For all those saying that the Church needs to modernise, don't forget that religion is all about core principles and beliefs that are fixed and unwavering. I admire the Catholic Church for sticking rigidly to its beliefs in a populist age, but I admire the populace more for having very justified contempt for those anachronistic and outmoded beliefs.
Harvey, London, UK
What a disaster. The Catholic Church is heading back to the middle ages. I doubt there could have been a worse choice than such a hardliner.
This is a shrewd move by those pulling the strings in the Vatican. At 78, it is improbable that this papacy will last too long. It'll last long enough to keep the booming Third World expansion within the conservative arm of Church well fuelled, and probably long enough to endure the tolerance of disenchanted western Catholics who hoped to see a more sympathetic, liberal Pope. It could, therefore, pave the way for a liberal.
Charlie Hearthrug, Mitcham, Surrey
So many disappointed comments, how sad. Give the man a chance, he was at the late Pope's side for many years and is supposed to be responsible for the meeting at Assisi, bringing together the world's religions. Do you want him to rap the sermons hip hop style? What's wrong with a hesitating conservative view?
Hanne Past, Freudenberg, Germany
Long live Benedict XVI! Religion is not a political faction, and the Pope is not a political leader, who has to collect votes. If you are Catholic, you have to believe in what Church tells you. If you don't like it, you have to change your faith.
Bartek Odorowicz, Gdynia, Poland
This is fantastic news for the body of Christ. Jesus Christ is the same today, yesterday and forevermore. The world might change but His word and teachings do not. I'm always fascinated how people who have no love or understanding of the Church feel they are the best to advise the Church on Godly matters.
I hope the new Pope will read the Bible carefully and realise that Jesus did not say anything about using condoms, but had plenty to say about helping the poor and needy.
Adam, London, UK
The Pope is not there to win a popularity contest, he is there to uphold God's will. The new Pope is a strong man who will stand up for what he believes is right. My thoughts and prayers are with him.
Sam, London, UK
As a Catholic who has long been disillusioned with the hierarchy, I do not think this is a very positive move. A former member of the Hitler Youth and a staunch conservative, it is very unlikely that Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, will reach out to those in the Church with serious grievances. So many have been leaving the Church in recent years and I can't see Ratzinger doing anything to bringing these people back into the fold.
Jason Robinson, Dublin, Ireland
All Catholics ought to applaud this decision, even those who would have preferred a more progressive candidate. In selecting Joseph Ratzinger the Cardinals have clearly followed their consciences, and resisted external pressure to choose someone who would appeal to public opinion.
God bless Pope Benedict XVI. God chose this Pope through the 115 Cardinals. Jesus is the same today as He was yesterday and as He will be tomorrow. His Truth is unchanging.
As a Baptist, I think the conservative doctrine of the new Pope will not benefit the Church or Catholics. I pray for God's wisdom and mercy to show through him. But I hope his age will mean a short term and that a new moderate and modern Pope will be appointed in the future.
Phil Shearer, Leicester
Another astounding prediction from the prophecies of St Malachy. He prophesied a full list of future Popes in 1068 AD, and called this pope The Glory of the Olive. The Olive tree is the depiction of the order of St Benedict. He also said that this would be the second from last Pope, and that Rome will fall after his reign. I wonder if this will be the impact of his known doctrinal views. Can the Catholic Church survive such a staunchly conservative leader?
Keith, London, UK
The new Pope is the right choice as shepherd to lead the Church and flock to a greater level of the world and life.
Roy Pascal, London
I was very much impressed with Cardinal Ratzinger. I think the election indicates the ideology and direction of the cardinals to keep the basic Christian values and teachings of the Church. I'm very pleased with this choice.
Vassilios Kirellous, London
Let's not be hasty to judge the new pontiff. I think he will do a lot of good for the Church and will continue the good work of John Paul II. Yes, he does have a hard line stance on most things, but that is what is needed.
Sean, Mullingar, Ireland
I wish Pope Benedict XVI all the best. I have reservations though. I dearly did not want a conservative Pope and I felt the homily before the conclave was more of a pre-election broadcast. But the cardinals have spoken and I hope they have chosen wisely.
I wish to congratulate Pope Benedict XVI on his Papal election I was hoping for Cardinal Arinze but I think this is the interim Pope the world was expecting.
Stephen Sinnett, Boden, Sweden
This is a nightmare and a dark hour for ecumenism. Let's hope we are wrong in our first impressions.
Typical. A chance for the Catholic Church to move into the 21st Century and elect a Pope who's modern, progressive and liberal. So instead they elect one who's old fashioned, blinkered and intolerant.
Shelley, Stoke-on-Trent, England
The Head of the Inquisition. Why oh why? In ecumenical debate, Ratzinger is ill respected. A mistake, I think.
Beloved John Paul II will be remembered as the Anti-American Pope. Pope Benedict XVI starts as the Pro-Nazi Pope.
Rob Lenaire, Belfast, Ireland
Pope Benedict XVI is obviously popular with the cardinals. It remains to be seen whether he will gain the popularity of the masses that Pope John Paul had. God Bless him in his Papacy.
Margaret , Camberley
It is sad for the world that a major religion moves further to conservatism. There is more danger for a strengthening of the clash of civilizations after this election than before. And there is less chance that Catholicism will offer relevant solutions to the world's problems.
Robert Manz, Budapest, Hungary
I think the Church has put in a temporary Pope. Let's not be too harsh.
God knows what He is doing. Faith and love is the key.
Everyone has already made their minds up about Pope Benedict, I see. Give the new Pope a chance and judge him after a year or two.
Tiz Piscina, London
I think we should rejoice in our new Pope and remember that the choice is made by the Holy Spirit through the conclave of cardinals. This is not a human decision but God's.
Patricia, Stanford in the Vale, Faringdon
Ratzinger was the first cardinal who openly applied for this job opening. It is a double disgrace for my Church that they not only elected him despite his behaviour, but also didn't give anything about his past in Nazi-Germany. It is indeed a great opportunity lost. A more charismatic and progressive Pope could have been elected.
Tom Vandenberghe, Ieper, Belgium
I think it's a good choice. We don't change the fundamental teachings of the Church just because pop culture needs it. I don't think the Church really minds losing more people in the west because its quality not quantity that matters.
People who were hoping for a new liberal Pope should not despair. The analogy with the former Soviet Union could not be stronger. Brezhnev left as conservative a line-up in power when he died; and it was the apparent hardliners who dismantled the whole apparatus within months. This is what will happen with the Catholic Church.
John, Purley, UK
I think Ratzinger may be viewed in years to come as an interim Pope. The next Pope may well be much more progressive.
Jim, Glasgow, Scotland
The fact the new Pope is German will not be helpful. We have just commemorated the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camps. Can a German Pope be objective in judging the Germany for the wars conducted in the past?
Edward Bryant, Paris, France
I think it is a very good choice. The Church is not an organisation that needs to follow the rules of marketing. It is the living body of Jesus Christ. Ratzinger won't betray the Christian tradition.
Stefan Stryjecki, Poland
The cardinals know better than the Western public what the Catholic Church needs. I hope this Pope places less emphasis on dogma and more on spirituality, and attempts to move outside the boundaries of Christianity to harmonise with the world's other great religions.
God doesn't think the way that people do. He is far more foresighted then we are. We are only unsuitable instruments in his hand. And God is able to write straight on crooked lines.
Daniel C, Malta
The more we move forward the further we stay the same. The Church once again modifies the colour in the foreground only to darken the background.
Anthony Cook, Toulon, France
How can the Vatican appoint somebody who was involved with the Hitler Youth? The new Catholic Church preaches harmony with other faiths, especially he Jewish people. This can only be a backwards step.
Simon Yaffe, Manchester, UK
I hope with the election of cardinal Ratzinger the Church will have even less power in South America and we can start to truly develop.
Why they didn't pick an Arab, Black African, or South American is beyond me.
Alex F, Toulouse, France
We are truly blessed that the newly elected Pope will continue the policies of our late Father, Pope John Paul II and continue to reach the youth - the future of our Church.
Anneke Zeeff, Viernheim, Germany
If the Church moved on with the times, as so many people say it should, it'd be in a much worse state. How can you rely on something that is constantly changing, especially at the call of society, which no one can deny is incredibly flawed. The Church is flawed, but they admit it. This Pope will hopefully keep to the unchanging truth.
There's a lot of moaning about him being a conservative and hardliner, well praise God if he is! There are enough liberal, wishy washy people in the church who are more interested in pleasing people and going for the popularity vote. We need more people in all denominations who care more about what the Bible says and stand up for that rather than people pleasing.
Today is a momentous occasion, we are sad by the negative responses. We have every faith in our new papa, he will do us well and he needs our support and encouragement.
Helena Rosso and Emilia Verte, Milan, Italy
Give the man a chance. John Paul II also had a reputation as a conservative hardliner and look how successful he turned out to be. The speed of the decision obviously shows how popular a choice he was. I wish him well.
Jim O'Donnell, Glasgow, Scotland
Did you expect a movie star? Yes, he is a conservative arch. But I believe God will guide him.
Joanna, Krakow, Poland
A Pope is there to stand up for what is right and not just what is popular in the modern age. Catholics have to trust the right decision has been made even if they don't agree with it. It's then up to individuals to make their own choices in life. I personally disagree with abortion but I do agree with contraception and I have to live with my choices. I don't see the problem.
Mick Morrow, Coventry
It looks like people have the same opinion on this man as they would if he was a new prime minister or president. This is very wrong and some people are playing the very dangerous game or comparing politics with religion. Give the man a chance - he has a lot to live up to.
Mitch , Manchester, UK
The problem with Joseph Ratzinger is not that his beliefs are "out of date". I don't believe that good morality changes over time, or that it can be decided by majority opinion. The problem with Ratzinger's moral views on gays, women, contraception and church authority is that they are, quite simply, wrong. Not wrong for our time. Just wrong. I wish people would engage in genuine moral discourse rather than disagreeing with others on the totally spurious grounds that their precepts are no longer popular or widely adhered to.
Katya Whitton, London, UK
Like many I was hoping for someone more liberal and progressive, but I am willing to reserve judgement until I see what Benedict XVI does. He has many qualities that could make him a good leader.
George Norton, Oxford, UK
Fantastic choice! A real intellectual - a man of prayer and courage. Another inspirational Pope. I can't wait to see him in Cologne for World Youth Day.
Robert, London, UK
I am disappointed that after such a great person as John Paul II, this cardinal was elected The Pope. I think the cardinals could at least think longer to find a proper person. Now all the attempts made by John Paul II to make all types of Christianity closer will be irretrievably lost.
Sergey, Moscow, Russia
Fantastic news. God bless him. We rejoice. I feel immensely privileged to be living in this moment of history. Viva il Papa!
John Boyle, Ashford, Kent, UK
I'm concerned with the election of Cardinal Ratzinger. As a faithful, I already had some difficulties reconciling some of my religious beliefs with the Church under Pope John Paul II. I fear for the worst under Pope Benedict XVI.
Percivil Carrera, Heidelberg, Germany
Thanks God for having chosen someone who guarantees keeping up to Bible teachings and who promises to clean the Church up. God bless him and give him strength to carry the cross as our last Pope did.
Brikena, Kruje, Albania
I find it amusing when Catholics complain about the particular choice of Pope. The new Pope is supposed to be chosen by God and not the cardinals. Maybe they should question their choice of religion instead.
James von Simson, Dublin
The choice of Cardinal Ratzinger is very wise. He provides assurance to the traditionalists that radical change will not happen, while providing continuity for those who loved John Paul II. I hope he guides the Church towards the traditional teachings and restores the traditional Latin Mass to its central place in the Church's liturgy. May God Bless this Pope in his most important task.
Gerard Daly, London
When I told my German friends that the new Pope was a German, they said "Oh no! Not Ratzinger." Religions are just another way of manipulating people; the same as politics except with the word God in it.
A very clever choice by the conclave, a 'holding' papacy while the Church adjusts to the needs of the 21st Century. With all due respect to our new 78 year old Holy Father, this is unlikely to be the longest Pontificate in history. Pope Benedict XVI will serve God and the faithful while the Church can look forward to what sort of papacy it wishes next after his reign. That way the Church evolves rather than suffers schism.
Stephen Lock, Moscow, Russia
Pope Benedict XVI may seem like a conservative approach, but none of us knew JPII before he was elected, so let us give him a chance. Remember that he was a close friend of JPII whom we loved, so can he really be as poor a choice as others are suggesting? We should pray for him.
Lutek, Warsaw, Poland
I am afraid of this man. Yet I hope for him to prove me wrong.
Mariusz, Gdansk, Poland
One of the most conservative popes ever! It's really a big mistake.
Not being a popularist or a fickle man, he is the right man for the job.
Sean Hammon, Brussels, Belgium
Let's not be afraid, I trust Benedict XVI will lead the Catholic Church with faith and skill.
Antoine, Geneva, Switzerland
As a Muslim, I am very happy that world has got Joseph Ratzinger as new pope. Who wants to bring peace and friendship amongst all religious communities.
Morshed , Trento, Italy
It was the worst possible choice - to put a pope from Middle Ages into XXI century.
Rafael Kownacki, Warsaw, Poland
Not being a Catholic myself, I don't really know anything about Joseph Ratzinger - from the comments of others I gather he's very conservative. That would spell bad news for the catholic church, but more importantly, if the new pope continues the policies of the previous one regarding contraception, then this election could potentially be disastrous for overpopulated developing nations where AIDS is spreading rampantly.
Jarno, Helsinki, Finland
I'm a bit sceptical about the election of Ratzinger. While the church certainly needs a strong voice, I feel he's too much of an academic and doesn't have the same charisma of John Paul II. He may prove useful as a transition while the church debates its direction. I just hope it doesn't lead to a split within the church. Guess all we can do is pray that he takes the church in the right direction.
David Ryan, Cork, Ireland
We can't say anything, but we can only pray and hope that Pope Benedict XVI will do great things for Catholics and all others across the world.
I'm very happy for Ratzinger being elected as the new Pope. He's a man of God, faithful to Christ's word. He is a very intelligent man who can handle the challenges the church has and guide it through the true path. God bless Benedict XVI!!
Sergio Williams Diaz, Pamplona, Spain
You cannot compromise morality. A clear message has been given and a clear choice made. May Benedict XVI continue in John Paul II's steps.