The selection of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany as Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday was marked by ringing bells and grateful prayers in Illinois--but also by worries about where he might lead the church.
At St. Peter Catholic Church in the Loop, applause erupted from the pews when a priest announced during mass that Ratzinger had been chosen as the church's leader. But teachers gathered around a television at Visitation School in Elmhurst groaned when the new pope was named.
"He'll bring clarity in the midst of a lot of different political debates in the church," McGuire said. "I think he's fantastic. He very clearly spoke about the problems of the decline of values in the world and in the West. And he spoke about moral relativism."
Ratzinger's election disappointed staff at Visitation School, however, "because he's an extremely conservative man," said Sister Peter Schulte, the school's reading resource teacher.
Nancy Hamilton, the mother of a student and a member of the parish council, said the trend of Catholics picking and choosing which parts of church doctrine to follow would likely be challenged.
"He definitely is ready to take the cafeteria out of the Catholic," Hamilton said.
Elsewhere, Catholics said they were relieved to have a pope, even if some were disappointed with the choice.
Dawn Weiss, 34, of Streamwood, has attended services at Holy Name Cathedral in downtown Chicago weekly for the last five years. "I'm glad to be part of a new beginning," she said. "I hope this pope can make the world come together."
While some focused on Ratzinger's politics, many at St. Pius V Church in the largely Hispanic Pilsen neighborhood were concerned about the pope's ethnicity. Angeles Acebedo, 40, like many others, was convinced it was time for the church to be headed by a Latino.
"It's good that here is someone who can guide our brothers in their path," Acebedo said, "but it would have been better if it was a Hispanic so that we could be understood better, because many of us don't speak English."
Alberto Samora, 42, a Mexican-American at St. Pius V, had also hoped for a Latino pope. He added that the new German pope should continue to travel the world like his predecessor.
Pope John Paul II "was able to reach out to people and made social justice for everyone a priority," Samora said. "He should continue in the steps of John Paul II. For me it is the same, we are all Catholics."
For Elva Vera, 30, a St. Pius congregant from Joliet, ethnicity was less important than whether the new pope will reach out worldwide as John Paul II did. "It doesn't matter who he is, the color doesn't matter, just that he does his work and helps the people," Vera said.
Others concentrated on spiritual leadership. Rev. Daniel Mayall, pastor of Holy Name Cathedral, called the selection of a new pope "a great moment for us as Catholics to be able to stand tall."
Mayall called Ratzinger a man who "unquestionably understands the tradition of our church, a man of prayer who's going to be guided by the Holy Spirit. I think he certainly was someone who's respected and whose credentials are on the table already."
At St. Catherine of Alexandria School in Oak Lawn, several 8th graders thought the pope looked stern and old. But others discussed the same issues that had adult churchgoers talking.
"I think people wanted a new pope, to see where he stood on abortion and birth control," Courtney McNeill, 14, said. "A lot of people didn't like Pope John Paul's stance on those issues."
The selection of Ratzinger didn't surprise Maureen Collins, 67, a stockbroker who goes to mass daily at St. Peter's. But she thinks he is likely to be open-minded, if steadfast.
"I think he's conservative," she said. "I think he'll be much like John Paul [II]. He'll listen to the stories, he'll listen to the arguments and the pros and cons, but he won't waiver from the doctrines of the church."
Diane Burton, 48, of the South Side, said the new pope would have his work cut out for him. "You have to earn respect and the last pope had a lot of respect," Burton said.
CHICAGO'S RESPONSE: POPE BENEDICT XVI