April 20, 2005 — The world watched as the holy smoke rose from the stack at the Sistine Chapel Tuesday and the bells of St. Peter's Basilica pealed. The white smoke was the age old symbol, but the bells offered clarification German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had been chosen to succeed John Paul II as supreme pontiff.
"Dear brothers and sisters, after the great Pope John Paul II, the cardinals have elected me, a simple, humble worker in the Lord's vineyard," the new pontiff said, according to the "Washington Post. "
"The fact that the Lord can work and act even with insufficient means consoles me, and above all, I entrust myself to your prayers," he said.
Pope Benedict XVI, as Ratzinger is now known, was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and had been the pope's close ally for the past two decades. He has been criticized as being conservative, but local leaders welcome Pope Benedict XVI to his new role.
Bishop George V. Murry of the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands expressed joy at the pope's election.
"The election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI is a great blessing to the Church," wrote Murry in a release to the media. "The new Pope is intelligent, articulate and committed to the truth of the Gospel. He has also shown himself to be a tireless defender of human rights, especially the rights of the most vulnerable among us including the poor, the elderly and the unborn."
Murry continued, "Let us offer our thanks to God for our new universal shepherd and let us pray that the Holy Sprit will continue to guide him as he guides the church into the 21st century.
Delegate to Congress Donna M. Christensen also extended her congratulations to Virgin Islands Catholics on the selection of a new pope.
"Along with you, I look forward to Pope Benedict's spiritual leadership in this new century that will see many challenges," said Christensen in a release. "People of faith will rely on his guidance as the touchstone for moral leadership, as they did with the previous pontiff. It is my hope and prayer that God will grant him the wisdom and courage that will be necessary."
There are 35,000 Roman Catholics in the territory, according to a source at the diocese, who asked not to be named. "It's a figure we have been using for a long time," the source said.
There are eight parishes, three on St. Thomas, four on St. Croix and one on St. John. Along with the parishes, there are two operating chapels, St. Anne's in Frenchtown, which is part of Sts. Peter and Paul parish on St. Thomas, and Sacred Heart Chapel on St. Croix, which is part of the Holy Cross parish.
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