When Cardinal Karol Wojytla was chosen to succeed Pope John Paul I, there was widespread startlement at the selection of a non-Italian Pope. The emphasis, in the news of the day, was on what the new John Paul II was not; this limited consideration of what he was.
Of course, in the event, his Polish origin turned out to be crucial in invigorating the Church's stand against Communism. Without demeaning his accomplishments as a bishop and cardinal, I think it is safe to say that most of the Poles who flocked to see and hear him had never heard of him before his elevation.
Now Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has become Pope Benedict XVI. Most of the focus has been on his orthodoxy; there has been precious little attention to his geography (though it was mentioned in one Guardian article).
The Church's enemy in the world is not European communism, which has now fallen, or Chinese communism, which is seen as the shackle it is. It is the Godlessness and enforced amorality of the West, which holds itself out as the vision of the future of Man. Just as John Paul II journeyed to the East to kindle the flames of a religion forbidden by the State; so Benedict XVI will journey to the West in an attempt to reinvigorate the practice of religion, in the face of condescension, in opposition to the religions of inclusiveness and consumerism.
It is a great task, fighting for the future of the world, and we cannot know its outcome. The attempts to marginalize the new Pope by painting him as an extremist are the first shots of this battle.