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Now that Josef Ratzinger, the erstwhile "Panzerkardinal," has become the leader of the Catholic Church, some will doubtless be tempted to call him the "Panzerpapst," or panzer pope—just for alliteration's sake.

But those who know him and his work well have an entirely different image of Pope Benedict XVI, as he will now be known after his speedy election Tuesday.

To be sure, he will be a counterrevolutionary, just like John Paul II, with whom Ratzinger collaborated closely. His blunt condemnation of the "tyranny of relativism" in his last sermon before joining 114 colleagues in the conclave that eventually opted for him, indicated as much.

This "tyranny of relativism" is in part the consequence of the youth rebellion of the 1960s, a phenomenon that has turned him from a liberal to a staunch voice for Christian orthodoxy.

It was during his liberal phase as a theological adviser to Cardinal Josef Frings, the hugely popular archbishop of Cologne after World War II, that he called the Inquisition a "scandal to the world." Later John Paul II would make him prefect of this very office now called Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith.

Ratzinger bemoaned the relegation of Christianity to a ghetto since the 19th century; he wrote sadly against the "leaden loneliness and inner boredom of a world emptied of God."

Germany, his own country, is more affected by this gloomy state of affairs than most others. He has watched and fought its decline into godlessness since its darkest hour when he was drafted into the Hitler Youth, the Nazi boy scouts, and had the guts to resign his compulsory membership in this organization—and then to desert from the ...

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Upright But No Panzer Pope
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April 2005

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