Statement of Rev. John Thomas, president of the UCC:
"With Christians around the world I join in praying for the newly elected Pope Benedict XVI that he may have the strength and wisdom sufficient for the leadership he is now called to exercise in the Catholic Church. Today as the conclave announces its decision, the offering of prayers for this new pontificate is the most appropriate response from other Christian leaders.
"Nevertheless, I acknowledge that I personally greet Cardinal Ratzinger’s selection with profound disappointment. Cardinal Ratzinger’s long tenure in the Vatican has been marked by a theological tone that is rigid, conservative and confrontational. The harsh treatment received by many gifted Catholic theologians over the years from the Cardinal’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has been profoundly troubling. His interpretations of the ecumenical vision of Vatican II have been narrow and constrained, and he has persisted in describing the ecclesial status of non-Catholic churches in ways that have been insensitive and demeaning.
"To many of us who have watched his ministry during John Paul II’s papacy, [Ratzinger] has lacked the warm pastoral heart that is so central to the ministry of bishops, including the Bishop of Rome.
“In other times the Holy Spirit has surprised us with gifts and graces we could not have anticipated from new popes at the time of their election. I pray that there may be similar surprises in the coming weeks and months.”