As the new pope celebrated his first public mass as the 265th leader of the Church on Wednesday, many of the world's 1.1 billion Catholics saw the German cardinal, chosen by a committee of his peers on Tuesday, as representing continuity.

Ratzinger served as one of pope John Paul II's closest aides and the guardian of Roman Catholic Church doctrine for nearly a quarter of a century.

Hope

"I believe this is going to be a reign of peace for all religions," said Lorenzo Gallegos, a Filipino doctor attending mass at a Manila church.

US President George Bush called Ratzinger "a man of great wisdom and knowledge".

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he would bring a wealth of experience to his papacy.

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas was quoted by aide Nabil Abu Rudaina as saying he hoped the new pope would continue the Vatican's support for a just peace in the Holy Land. 

Disappointment

But there was disappointment among those who had hoped a
new pope might relax the Church's views on issues such as
divorce, female priests, homosexuality and contraception.

"We can expect no reform from him in the coming years. Even more people will turn their back on the Church"

Bernd Goehring, director of German ecumenical group
Kirche von Unten

"Ratzinger is not the pope that we would ideally like," said Joelle Battestini, associate convener of the Australian group Ordination of Catholic Women. 

Bernd Goehring, director of German ecumenical group Kirche von Unten, said the election was a catastrophe. 

"We can expect no reform from him in the coming years." he
said. "Even more people will turn their back on the Church." 

Discontent

Liberal Catholics expressed doubt that Ratzinger could heal a congregation racked by disillusionment and tarnished by sex abuse scandals among the clergy. 

"The princes of the Roman Catholic Church elected as pope a man whose record has been one of unrelenting, venomous hatred for gay people"

Matt Foreman, US National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

In Latin America, which had hoped one of their own would be elected pope this time, the choice may be seen as divisive. 

"This is a triumph for the dogmatic, capitalist right," said Argentine theologian Ruben Dri, a professor at the University of Buenos Aires. 

Many homosexuals were outraged; Ratzinger has denounced homosexuality and gay marriage. 

"The princes of the Roman Catholic Church elected as pope a man whose record has been one of unrelenting, venomous hatred for gay people," said Matt Foreman of National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in the United States.

Inter-faith cooperation

But Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, leader of the world's 70 million Anglicans, praised Ratzinger as a theologian of great stature and said he looked forward to working with him. 

Some hope Ratzinger (L) will
continue John Paul's policies

In Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, Masduki Baidlowi, a senior figure in the 40-million member Islamic group Nahdatul Ulama and a member of parliament, said:

"I hope the new pope would carry the same spirit of peace and inter-religious harmony as Pope John Paul II." 

Jewish leaders said they believed Ratzinger would build on the strides made by John Paul in helping repair centuries of mistrust between the two monotheistic faiths.

Rabbi David Rosen, the American Jewish Committee's international director of interreligious affairs, said "Ratzinger already has shown a profound commitment to advancing Catholic-Jewish relations".

And speaking before the conclave of cardinals that elected him, Georg Ratzinger said he thought his brother, at 78, might just be too old for the job. He also said that his brother was a very normal person and easy to get along with.