OPINION

Benedict XVI and the world

It is natural that the election of a new pope, leader of the Holy See, is of most concern to the followers of the Roman Catholic Church. However, in today’s globalized and interdependent world, the identity of the Vatican leader inevitably has an impact on relations between the Roman Catholic Church, with its 1 billion followers, and other religions, whether Christian or not. At a time when a clash of civilizations or religions is being elevated as the driving force behind contemporary international developments, the public posture of religious leaders can play a key role in consolidating or undermining world peace. In this light, the Christian Orthodox religion, and the Greeks in particular, are interested in seeing the policy of Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, the new Pope Benedict XVI. His predecessor, the late John Paul II, met Archbishop Christodoulos under the Parthenon roughly a thousand years after the schism, cultivating hopes for warmer ties between the two churches. In fact John Paul II had expressed his admiration for the Greek civilization. Ratzinger has in the past said that he considers Greece’s legacy to be an integral part of European identity. One wishes that the new pope will be consistent enough to express his appreciation in his stand toward our country. It is interesting to see whether Ratzinger will manage to overcome his previous hardline stance and kick-start the much-needed dialogue between religions which has come to a halt over the past few years. Pope John Paul II preferred symbolic visits to non-Catholic religious sites like mosques and synagogues instead of venturing out and taking substantial steps. As head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for 20 years, Benedict XVI has deep knowledge of the disagreements and possible areas of rapprochement between the two Christian churches. He is the best candidate to promote substantial conciliatory moves provided that he proves himself to be «a simple, humble worker in the Lord’s vineyard,» as he profiled himself after being introduced to the flock, and not live up to his reputation as a hardline, ultraconservative figure.