German close to the pope is chosen dean of the College of Cardinals, succeeding African

Posted: Friday, December 06, 2002

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- The Vatican's top theologian, German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, has been chosen dean of the College of Cardinals, replacing Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, 80, who wants to return to his homeland of Benin.

The title, mainly honorary, makes Ratzinger, 75, a kind of first among equals in the college that elects the pope. Ratzinger continues as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican office that protects doctrinal orthodoxy.

The dean, at one time chosen by seniority, was selected by several leading cardinals, Ratzinger among them, and confirmed by the pope.

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