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John Paul II will long be remembered as the greatest pope since the Reformation. His successor, Benedict XVI, may well turn out to be the harbinger of a new reformation. I say this despite the fact that the selection of this particular pope was a surprise to many.

Several years ago, John Allen, the biographer of Joseph Ratzinger, listed four reasons why the controversial cardinal would not be chosen as the new pope: He lacked sufficient pastoral experience; he was another non-Italian European, and two in a row would not be likely; he was too conservative; and he was too old. In fact, he turned 78 on the weekend prior to his election.

The last time a man of comparable age was selected to succeed a long-serving pontiff was in 1958, when Angelo Roncalli succeeded Pius XII as John XXIII. To the surprise of many, the "good pope John" proved to be far more than a mere caretaker. He opened Catholicism to the wind of the Spirit by convening the Second Vatican Council.

Five-Point Ecumenism


I am not predicting that Benedict XVI will follow suit and preside over a new council, Vatican III. But I do believe his pontificate will be one of great moment for the Christian church, not least for evangelicals. Here are five reasons why evangelical Protestants, and orthodox believers of all persuasions, should be pleased at the election of Pope Benedict XVI.

1. He takes truth seriously. Born in Bavaria in 1927, on the eve of the Nazi seizure of power in Germany, young Joseph Ratzinger saw firsthand the brutality and terror of the Nazi way of life. Behind totalitarian violence was utter contempt for the truth claims of the historic Christian faith. As a schoolboy, Ratzinger once witnessed his Nazi teacher replace the cross in the center of his ...

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June 2005

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