Cometh the hour; cometh the man. It seemed obvious whom the Holy Spirit would choose to follow John Paul II, and She has duly delivered him. Despite the hopes of some liberal commentators, Ratzinger's no more a transitional pope than any other before him, and there's no knowing how long he might lead the Catholics; people do live longer now than they once did. I confess the sin of having enjoyed witnessing the rent-a-quote liberal Catholics' discomfort at Ratzinger's elevation. Presumably out of wishful thinking, many of them had discounted the possibility of Ratzinger being elected, telling themselves that he wouldn't get the numbers. So it was hilarious to listen to ex-nun Lavinia Byrne being interviewed by Radio 5Live for her reaction - she started off trying not to criticize the choice but was unable to stop herself expressing her horror and her animus towards Ratzinger. Also, Christina Odone on BBC News 24 looked like she had sucked a tart lemon as a cure for nausea but it hadn't worked. I found it all highly entertaining.
Joseph Ra-TZIN-ger (the stress is on the second syllable) has chosen the name of the patron saint of Europe, Benedict. This is surely no accident. The majority of the 115 electing cardinals, by 58 to 57, were Europeans (but, had the two non-attending electors been present, the majority would have been non-Europeans - the Holy Spirit moving mysteriously?). Those cardinals would have believed, whatever the needs of the other continents, that Europe's current existential crisis required a European pope, one with great clarity of mind. And they knew that, when JP2 refused Ratzinger's request to retire aged 75 and then made him the dean of the cardinals, it was clear whom JP2 wanted as his successor. Ratzinger was the obvious and outstanding candidate, and the only surprise was at how long it took the cardinals to decide.