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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 April, 2005, 20:05 GMT 21:05 UK
Britain's Catholics look forward
By Alexis Akwagyiram
BBC News

For some it brought excitement, while others questioned what the future would bring.

Father Denis Blackledge
I hope the new Pope will make peace between the different factions within the church
Father Denis Blackledge
Jesuit priest

But, regardless of their stance, the selection of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope John Paul II's successor has stirred strong feelings among members of the UK's Roman Catholic community.

Father Denis Blackledge, a Jesuit priest based in Lancashire, said he hoped the new pontiff would unify different factions within the church.

And Helen Murden, a Manchester-based Catholic, said she was simply "excited" at the prospect of a new papacy.

The 78 year-old pontiff, who has chosen to take the name Pope Benedict XVI, was widely tipped to be among the front runners in the election.

Father Blackledge described the man who had worked closely with his predecessor as "a transitional Pope", given his age.

He said: "I hope the new Pope will make peace between the different factions within the church", as well as helping to bring about the "re-Christianisation of Europe".

Father Blackledge went on: "I hope the new Pope will bring the church worldwide closer together, as well as doing the same with members of other faiths."

The Murden family
Patrick and Helen Murden welcomed news of the selection

He also expressed a wish for the pontiff to "enable bishops to work together as a team", rather than imposing the central system of control, from the Vatican, preferred by his predecessor.

However, he conceded that that there is likely to be "more of the same" style of leadership conducted by Pope John Paul II.

Commenting on the way in which Pope Benedict is likely to be received, he went on: "He will be a disappointment to some, a surprise to others and a comfort to other people."

But, away from the political analysis of the new papacy, the selection was received with excitement in some quarters.

Helen Murden and her husband, Patrick, took their five-month-old son to Rome for a "trip of a lifetime" to witness Pope John Paul II's funeral.

Pope Benedict XVI

The family watched the new Pope being welcomed to thousands of pilgrims in St. Peter's Square live on television at their home in Middleton, Greater Manchester.

Mrs Murden, 28, a secondary teacher from Manchester, said: "This is very exciting. I don't know much about him except that he has a reputation for being conservative and will probably maintain the strong orthodoxy that Pope John Paul upheld.

"The cardinals have obviously decided to maintain a conservative way of leading the church.

"I respect their decision and agree that this is probably the best way for it to be run."

Mr Murden, 29, who is also a secondary school teacher, expressed happiness that a swift decision was made.

"From a Catholic point of view we accept that they have selected the right man," he said.

But Father Ray Lyons, a former executive secretary of the National Conference of Catholic Priests, said he was "shocked" and "concerned" by the selection.

Father Lyons, who is a priest of the Portsmouth Diocese, said he had hoped for someone with a "reform agenda" to be elected to act as a "healer and reconciler".

Catholics in the UK give their reaction


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