Citing health issues, on 11 February 2013, Pope Benedict XVI announced that he would resign the papacy effective February 28. The statement, which was made during a routine meeting of cardinals at the Vatican, came as a total shock to the Catholic Church and the world at large. The 85-year-old Pope explained that to be effective in his work, “both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”
Benedict XVI is the first pope to resign since 1415, when Gregory XII reluctantly gave up the papal throne to end the Western Schism, a decades-long dispute with a rival claimant, which had divided the church. The only pope to willingly resign his authority was Celestine V, in 1294, whose abdication after just five months at the Holy See was termed “the great refusal.”
Benedict XVI, born Joseph Ratzinger in Bavaria, Germany, was elected Pontiff in 2005 after the death of Pope John Paul II, whose enforcer of doctrine he was. Uncompromisingly conservative on social and theological issues, Benedict’s tenure in the Vatican was rocked by continued sexual scandals among the priesthood, by financial irregularities, and by breaches of security.
Ratzinger’s aptness for the papacy may be prefigured by the presence of asteroid Pappos (#29448, for “Pope”) at 22 Pisces in his birth chart, conjunct natal asteroid Ratzinger (#8661) at 27 Pisces and squared natal asteroid Benedix (#6579) at 21 Sagittarius, representing the name he would choose as Pope. Broadly conjoined Pappos is asteroid Josephina (#303) at 14 Pisces, itself closely squared by asteroid Vaticana (#416) at 16 Gemini, implying a close personal connection to the Holy See.
When Benedict made his resignation announcement, asteroid Benedix at 7 Aries was tightly conjunct Uranus, planet of shocks and surprises, and squared to Pluto at 10 Capricorn, itself conjunct asteroid Vaticana at 5 Capricorn, an image of the transformation in the papacy this will evoke. Asteroid Josefa (#649) at 2 Aquarius was exactly conjunct asteroid Osiris, signaling a “death” or transformation of some sort, while asteroid Ratzinger at 26 Virgo was squared the Galactic Center at 27 Sagittarius, indicating a moment for the former Cardinal Ratzinger of global notice or attention.
Ratzinger opposed its natal degree of 27 Pisces in Benedict’s natal chart (born 16 April 1927), also in square to the Galactic Center, prefiguring his eventual global prominence. An opposition indicates a point of clarification, a fulfillment or moment of enlightenment and understanding of the path we must take—in this case, Ratzinger’s realization that he had reached the culmination of his efforts. On the day of the resignation, asteroid Niobe was exactly conjoined natal Ratzinger, suggesting that there may be an element of pride in the pope’s decision to leave his office.
Natal asteroid Josefa at 7 Capricorn was conjunct transit Vaticana/Pluto, personalizing this transformative event at the Vatican to the pope, while natal asteroid Josephina at 14 Pisces was exactly conjoined by transit TNO Borasisi, a point representing lies, perhaps indicating that Benedict’s health issues are not the full story behind his resignation. Benedict’s natal asteroid Benedix at 21 Sagittarius is within orb of his 25 Sagittarius MC, which itself conjoins the Galactic Center, indicating the name by which he would become known to the world, and its prominence in his career or personal notoriety.
Transit Jupiter, ruling religion, had formed its direct station at 6 Gemini just weeks before the decision was announced, in exact opposition to Benedict’s natal Saturn (career, authority) at 6 Sagittarius, which was also closely trined by transit Uranus/Benedix. Jupiter’s prior retrograde station in October 2012 had been at 16 Gemini, exactly conjoined Benedict’s natal asteroid Vaticana, perhaps prompting the pontiff’s first serious reappraisal of his status.
When Cardinal Ratzinger was elected pope on 19 April 2005, the Sun at 29 Aries combined with asteroids Josephina at 27 Aries and Vaticana at 2 Taurus, binding Joseph Ratzinger and the Vatican personally with the day’s events (Sun). Sun/Josephina were also still within orb of Ratzinger’s natal Sun at 25 Aries, and broadly squared by Saturn that day at 21 Cancer. Asteroids Josefa and Ratzinger together at 26 and 21 Pisces were squared Benedix at 18 Gemini, with Ratzinger about to return to its natal degree of 27 Pisces, a period of reorientation which, in this case, included the official shedding of that birth name. Asteroid Pappos at 14 Aries conjoined Mercury at 13 Aries, bringing news of the election of a new pope, and exactly opposed Ratzinger’s natal Moon at 14 Libra, emphasizing his pastoral role, while forming a T-Square with Pluto at 13 Cancer, indicating the augmented personal power (Pluto) which his elevation would grant him.
The College of Cardinals was expected to choose a successor by mid-March, allowing an enthronement before Holy Week commences with Palm Sunday on March 24. After formally steeping down on February 28, Benedict retired to Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence, until suitable monastic accommodations can be prepared for him within Vatican City itself.
Papal Conclave & Election
On March 12, 2013, the doors of the Sistine Chapel were locked as 115 Cardinal Electors were sequestered in a Papal Conclave to choose the next Vicar of Christ. More than a hundred thousand of the faithful (plus several hundred possibly godless media types) massed in St. Peter’s Square to watch for the telltale white smoke appearing from the Sistine Chapel’s chimney, which would signal that a decision had been made.
The first ballot that evening had no result, nor did the second the following morning, but at 7:06 PM local time on Wednesday the 13th, the white smoke poured forth, a symbol confirmed a minute later by the ringing of all the bells in the Vatican. A new pope had been chosen, but his identity was still a mystery, until 8:12 PM, when Cardinal Tauran came to the balcony and announced, “Habemus Papam!” (“We have a pope!”), followed shortly by a wizened, aged figure clad all in white, adorned with only a simple wooden crucifix.
The new Pope is Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, and he is precedent-setting in more ways than one. The first pope from the Americas, the first pope from outside Europe since the Syrian Saint Gregory III was chosen in 731, and the first member of the Jesuit order to become Pontiff. Cardinal Bergoglio continued this string of “firsts” by choosing “Francis” as his new name, in homage to both St. Francis of Assisi and the founder of the Jesuits, Francis Loyola, becoming the first of that name to reign in St. Peter’s.
Despite the fact that he had been runner-up at the last conclave in 2005 which elected Joseph Ratzinger as Benedict XVI, Bergoglio wasn’t on most pope-watchers’ radar. The 76-year-old Cardinal was deemed as too old for the post, especially in the wake of a predecessor who had just made history by retiring due to old age and decreased capacity.
Noted for his work with the poor and his condemnation of income inequities in Argentina, Cardinal Archbishop Bergoglio eschewed the trappings of his office, abandoning the archiepiscopal palace in Buenos Aires and opting to live by himself in a small apartment, where he cooked his own meals and took public transit instead of the limousine placed at his disposal. The choice of a simple wooden cross was intentional as well, emphasizing his humble mien; both immediate predecessors first appeared wearing ornate gilded versions.
A chart cast for the moment of his unveiling shows specific asteroids in prominent positions which confirm the nature of the moment. Asteroid George (#3854, for “Jorge”) at 9 Pisces conjoins Neptune, representing Faith and spiritual matters, at 3 Pisces, Mercury (news, the announcement) at 6 Pisces retrograde, and Chiron (the wounded healer, maverick behaviors) at 10 Pisces, as well as exactly squared transit Jupiter (renown, worldly success, religion) at 9 Gemini. Asteroid Mario (#12931, his middle name) at 24 Aries combines with an exact Moon/Descendant pairing at 17 Aries, in a cluster which includes asteroid Buenos Aires (#7850, his birth place, current home, and the seat of his Archbishopric) at 20 Aries, all in square to asteroid Vaticana exactly on the IC at 20 Capricorn.
Asteroid Francis (#2050) appears at 22 Scorpio, in close trine to the election’s Sun at 23 Pisces and in a Grand Trine with TNO Varuna at 23 Cancer, representing one’s legacy, making an impact well beyond the scope of one’s life, according to astrologer Linda Berry. Astrologer Eric Francis uses the phrase “the Great Equalizer” for Varuna, perhaps summing up the new Pope Francis’ attitudes toward more equitable distribution of resources among the peoples of the world, and further describes the energy as “a higher remote power which is beyond question or understanding, and this divine power being allowed to manifest through individuals (like the Pope…)”. Asteroid Francis is also conjoined the transit North Node at 18 Scorpio, as well as the new pope’s natal Pappos, at 19 Scorpio. The Sun squares asteroid Argentina (#469) at 25 Gemini, which opposed the Galactic Center indicates that country’s sudden prominence in global news.
Born 17 December, 1936 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, at 9 PM local time (time confirmed by birth certificate), Bergoglio’s natal Sun at 25 Sagittarius is also squared the election Sun, and exactly opposed transit asteroid Argentina for his elevation to the pontificate. Asteroid Mario natally falls at 23 Pisces, exactly conjunct the election Sun, while natal asteroid Francis at 1 Taurus conjoins natal Uranus at 5 Taurus, symbolizing both the surprise and unanticipated nature of his election, as well as the string of “firsts” which it evoked, and the “out-of-the-box” nature of the selection of that name. Natal Francis is also just a degree off the 0 Taurus Midheaven, the point of greatest elevation in the chart, symbolizing his highest worldly aspiration or achievement, making it a very apt choice for Bergoglio as Pope.
A pair of exact natal conjunctions is disturbing in its implications for the new pope’s life expectancy. That natal Pappos is joined exactly by asteroid Requiem, named for the funeral mass for the dead, and natal Pluto at 28 Cancer, modern ruler of death, is exactly conjunct natal asteroid Vaticana. This may say nothing more than that he dies as Pope in the Vatican, something which will now presumably occur (unless he follows the resignation path of Benedict XVI), and by itself, Pluto/Vaticana is surely a symbol of the ultimate power and control he now wields at the center of the Catholic Church.
But additional factors lend themselves to the idea that Pope Francis’ reign may be a short one. Transit Atropos, named for the mythic Greek Fate who severs the thread of life at death, appears at 4 Gemini in the election chart, conjoined both transit Pappos (the Pope) at 2 Gemini and transit Jupiter (religious institutions and hierarchies) at 9 Gemini, and together squared transit Neptune/Mercury/George. Transit Lachesis, named for the Fate who determines the span of life, falls at 5 Taurus, exactly conjunct natal Uranus and also conjoining natal Francis, perhaps indicating a sudden, unexpected (Uranus) death (Lachesis), a latent potential activated by Bergoglio’s choice of the name Francis. Traveling with Francis and the North Node, and also conjoined natal Pappos/Requiem, is asteroid Rip at 25 Scorpio, which I have found recently also correlates to the common gravestone inscription “RIP” (“Rest in Peace”), creating another linkage between the concepts of Pope Francis and death. The Lunar Eclipse of April 25 this year at 5 Scorpio opposes Uranus/Lachesis exactly, while the subsequent Solar Eclipse at 19 Taurus on May 9 falls exactly opposed the new Pope’s natal Pappos/Requiem.
With a natal Sun opposed Chiron at 20 Gemini, and the election asteroid George conjunct transit Chiron, Pope Francis could be an important healing figure in the Catholic Church, perhaps crafting a human, compassionate response to the child sexual abuse scandals which have plagued the institution for over a decade. Both natal Mercury at 11 Capricorn and natal Varuna at 10 Aries are caught up in the current Uranus/Pluto squares, the defining aspect of our times, perhaps making him a potent voice (Mercury) for the downtrodden, and the “Great Equalizer” (Varuna) his flock so desperately needs.