'This is the work of the Holy Spirit'
Bishop Tobin said the quick selection speaks volumes about the man.
YOUNGSTOWN -- The sadness that filled the Catholic Church a few short weeks ago with the death of Pope John Paul II was replaced with joy at the election of his successor.
Youngstown Bishop Thomas J. Tobin said he was delighted with the election of Pope Benedict XVI.
He said he and other bishops from Ohio and Michigan met Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger last May in Rome.
"He struck me, and all of us, as a very cordial, very humble, very respectful individual. He was most generous to us," Bishop Tobin said.
The college of cardinals voted only three times in its conclave before selecting the German cardinal, who had served as the dean of the college of cardinals. Bishop Tobin said the speed in which the decision was made reflects well on the 265th pope.
"I think this indicates that Cardinal Ratzinger had a great deal of respect, admiration and support from his fellow cardinals who would know him best," Bishop Tobin said.
Bishop Tobin said the papal selection process is filled with a tradition that has withstood the test of time.
"We need to trust the judgment of the Holy Spirit. We believe that this is the work of the Holy Spirit. If we believe that, it's very hard to be disappointed," Bishop Tobin said.
The Youngstown bishop said he was somewhat surprised by the choice of the cardinal because of the age of the new pope, who celebrated his 78th birthday April 16.
Some see his advanced age as evidence of a church that is seeking a transitional pope after John Paul's long reign. Tobin said that history belies that theory.
"It is very, very difficult to predict what a new pope will do. ... when John XXIII was elected in 1958, he was 78 years old also. It was thought that he would be a transitional pope, who wouldn't really do much and make many waves, and he started the Second Vatican Council," Tobin noted.
Bishop Tobin said Pope Benedict XVI, a close adviser and friend of John Paul II, will put his own distinct mark on the papacy, yet carry on the legacy of the late pontiff.
"I would not be surprised if this new pope gives us that kind of strong and visionary leadership and comes up with some surprises of his own," Bishop Tobin added.
In the days before the conclave was set to meet, speculation ran high on a number of candidates. Cardinal Ratzinger, the Vatican's chief theologian, was often referred to as a hard-liner on church doctrine. Bishop Tobin stressed that the pope's responsibility is to uphold church teaching.
"Whether you call it a hard-liner or you call someone a conservative, it's not his own individual work or individual ministries of the church. It is the teaching of the church. Again there are different ways that an individual might express that, phrase it or approach it, but it is the basic work of the church," he said.
Bishop Tobin, who has been reassigned to serve as bishop of the Diocese of Providence, R.I., and will be installed May 31, was asked if the change of popes delay the naming of a new bishop for the Youngstown Diocese. He said it will be hard to predict if that will have any effect on a new appointment.
"The Vatican has a way of moving at its own pace with its own processes. Typically it's six months to a year [to name a bishop], and I suspect that will continue with a new pope," he said.