Resignation of Pope Benedict

As befitted a month during which the Sun spent half its time in unpredictable Aquarius, February turned out to chock full of surprises.  These included the shock resignation of the Pope on February the 11th, the shooting of Paralympic champion, Oscar Pistorius’ girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, in the early hours of Valentine’s Day, the downgrading of the UK’s AAA credit rating by US credit ratings agency, Moody’s on Friday the 22nd as well as a stalemate in the Italian elections.

Although I’d love to cover all these topics, I have chosen to focus on events in Italy this month, given their wider implications for Christianity and the European Union.

Resignation of the Pope

Pope Benedict XVI 2

On the February the 11, the world was rocked by the news that the Pope intended to step down at the end of the month after eight years in office. At 85, Pope Benedict was the oldest man ever to be elected to the position, and many remarked that in recent months, he had been looking and sounding increasingly frail as he went about trying to fulfil his duties.

The fact that he is the first pope in nearly 600 years to resign from the papacy, and that none of his close associates makes this even more of a Uranian, that is unexpected, event. Hours after the Pope’s shock resignation, the Guardian newspaper posted a video of a lightning bolt striking the top of the St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, and describing the announcement as a ‘bolt from the blue.’[1] Once again, we see the signature of Aquarius/Uranus.

If we look at a noon chart for the day of the announcement, we find a very curious and highly resonant map:

Aquarius, the sign associated with unpredictable behaviour, sits on the cusp of the Midheaven, ruler of career and public office, indicating  a shock resignation. As if to draw out attention to the MC, the Sun and Venus, both in Aquarius, straddle this angle.

Jupiter, the planet ruling religious leaders, is rising in Gemini, a sign associated with communication, news and announcements.

Saturn, the traditional ruler of both Capricorn and Aquarius, is located in the 6th house of work and health, suggesting that his reason for resigning – old age and infirmity  – is a valid one. Saturn is, after all, the planet most associated with limitation,  aging and physical hardship. To emphasize the radicality of the chart, we note that Saturn rules the 9th house of religious affairs, whilst Jupiter, the natural ruler of the 9th, is Lord of the 7th house.

However,  Saturn is in Scorpio, the sign associated with both scandal and mortality, and is connected by applying aspect and mutual reception by sign with Pluto. Pluto is exceptionally strong in the chart, being the natural ruler of Scorpio and situated in the 8th house of death, sex and debt – its natural ‘home’.

What’s more, Saturn is square to Venus (and in turn, the Midheaven). This suggests that there may be more to the Pope’s resignation than first meets the eye – is he leaving to avoid the taint of scandal? The fact that Scorpio is intercepted in the 6th house, and that Saturn is separating from the Venus square and applying to a major grand trine with Pluto and Mercury suggest to me that, although this looks a strong possibility, given the position of Pluto, we may never know the truth. Scorpio is a mute sign, and the combination of secretive, invisible Pluto with Mercury, planet of communication, suggests that we may never know.

One hint that the Pope may be taking a shameful secret with him to retirement, possibly to the grave, is the Moon, ruler of the 3rd house of gossip and self-expression, located in the 10th house of career. The Moon is moving off from a conjunction with Mars, Lord of the 12th house of secrets, enemies and self-undoing, towards a conjunction with both Mercury (communication) and Chiron, symbolic of psychological wounds and vulnerabilities.

So what could he possibly be hiding?

Just a week after his announcement, UK and Italian newspapers were awash with allegations of sexual impropriety and abuse: As the last days of the Pope’s time in office drew nearer, CNN reported that:

Vatican officials were already trying…to swat down unsavory claims by Italian publications of a brewing episode involving gay priests, male prostitutes and blackmail when news broke that Benedict had moved up the resignation of a Scottish archbishop linked over the weekend by a British newspaper to inappropriate relationships with priests. [2]

Some speculate that the Church’s inability to properly deal with widespread allegations of sexual and physical abuse by Catholic priests over the years, which led to public outrage and in 2008, an apology from the Vatican, along with outdated views of sex outside of marriage and the vows of celibacy expected of catholic priests, has led to the perfect storm – one that the Pope Benedict may have felt at a loss to handle.[3]  Commentators have pointed out that Ratzinger, himself a controversial figure, had to content with more than his fair share of scandals during his 8-year stint in office – a situation that must have been physically and mentally exhausting.[4]

Of course, it is also worth noting that the Moon also rules the 2nd house of money and possessions in this chart.  Once can’t help but recall the 2012 ‘Vatileaks Scandal’ during which the Pope’s former butler leaked confidential documents to an investigative journalist outlining a litany of ‘financial irregularities, corruption, nepotism and discord at the highest level in the Church.’[5]

Given Pluto in Capricorn’s relentless quest to reform outdated institutions and root out corruption, together with its contacts to Saturn in Scorpio on and off this year (including March – for the low-down, visit my March Astro-Insights column), it seems that nothing less than fundamental reform, rather than the traditional modus operandi of cover-ups and payoffs – will suffice if faith is to be restored in the Catholic Church.

According to insiders, the Pope

…admits in private that most of his attempts to reform the Vatican bureaucracy and, for that matter, the entire Roman Curia here have failed. So he is handing on the task to his successor.

The Pope has made no secret of the fact that he accepted election only reluctantly in 2005. At the end of a long and distinguished ecclesiastical and university career he had looked forward to returning to his books, and one of his ambitions had always been to become the Vatican’s chief librarian in his old age.[6]

Perhaps now he will get his chance to live a more bookish, secluded way of life.

Italian Elections

This month Italy not only lost its religious head, but its political leadership too. General elections, which were held over two days in the last week of February, led to a stalemate at the polls, with the vote split between two political parties and a protest group headed up by a comedian and backed by voters sick of the corruption and nepotism that has plagued Italy’s political system for years.  A prime example of this was the return to politics of disgraced former prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, forced to resign in 2011 at the height of the Euro Crisis, after the financial markets lost confidence in his leadership ability after numerous allegations of sleaze and corruption.

With no strong and clear winner, the lacklustre results left Italy politically rudderless, leading to further jitters amongst investors about the economic prospects of the country, and indeed, the Euro.

By the time these events unfolded, the Sun, along with  Mercury, Venus and Mars, had moved from Aquarius into Pisces.  I thought it rather telling how many watery metaphors came rolling out of the mouths of commentators and political players pre- and post-election. Beppe Grillo, the controversial head of the Five Star Movement (which has a very Venusian ring to it, I have to say!) promised the world a ‘tsunami’[7] which would wipe out corrupt ways of the Italian political establishment, whilst headlines spoke of muddied political waters.

A BBC report wrote that:

…this election will always be remembered for the stunning performance of the new citizens’ protest network – the Five Star Movement.

Led by its guiding star, the comedian-turned politician Beppe Grillo, it was born and bred on the internet.

But it emerged from the web and took its argument into town squares all over Italy.

The citizen activists oppose what they regard as the corrupted, self-serving traditional parties – the entire failed political establishment.

The movement has connected with huge numbers of Italians who have developed a contempt for the governing elite.

It won a quarter of the vote. It has become the largest single faction in parliament and a major political force in this country.

It is an astonishing result that will resonate across Europe.[8]

The revolutionary nature of this movement, along with its links to the internet and its decidedly anti-establishment tone has all the hallmarks of Uranus in Aries to me. And indeed, Grillo predicts Italy’s own version of an Arab Spring, promising new elections within a year[9] whilst Mario Monti, the well-respected financial technocrat who replaced Berlusconi in 2011, has already announced his intention to step down in the wake of increasing pressure to relax his programme of austerity aimed at getting Italy’s finances back into shape after years of economic mismanagement.[10] Many are worried about what effects further political uncertainty could have on the financial markets, and in turn, for the Eurozone as a whole.[11]

It remains to be seen what Italy’s future holds – with Mercury currently retrograde in Pisces until mid-March, it seems unlikely we’ll get any clarity until after this period.

However, if Italy follows in the wake of Greece, and indeed, the many Arab nations whose people have made a stand against weak, authoritarian and corrupt leaders , Europe could well be in for an interesting time.  Given that Uranus and Pluto, the two planets associated with revolutionary change and political unrest, are set to square off again in May and November 2013, that time may arrive sooner than we think…


[10] Profile: Mario Monti, BBC News,


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