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The Pope Steps Down

This week Pope Benedict XVI will become the first pope in modern history not to leave his office feet first. His voluntary retirement has shaken the Catholic world and may set an important precedent for the future. Let’s look at his horoscope to see what’s up.

The first thing we notice with this horoscope (click here to see the chart) is the presence of Jupiter almost directly on the Ascendant. Jupiter is the planet associated with institutional religion so it’s placement at such an important angle in the horoscope is not surprising. Also, Pope Benedict has his Sun in a Grand Trine with Neptune and the degree of his Midheaven. Neptune rules the spiritual side of religion, the Sun rules one’s essential identity and the Midheaven is important in our choice of career. This Pope’s vocation is clearly stamped on his horoscope. He is a man who identifies closely with the institution of the Church, but who is also profoundly spiritual.

Back when he was just a priest named Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict distinguished himself first an academic, (another manifestation of his strongly place Jupiter.) Later, as rose through the ranks, he was noted for his conservative views on Church doctrine. Saturn, the planet most resistant to change, is in his 9th House of religion.

As a high ranking Cardinal, Benedict became known as somewhat of an enforcer because of his tough stance against people within the Church who questioned its traditional doctrine. Mars is very strong in his horoscope, being conjunct his I.C and the North Node of the Moon. Within the context of his priestly vows, Pope Benedict is a man who relishes a good fight.

And this brings us to his retirement. Pope Benedict’s strongly placed Mars is square to Uranus. This a dynamic aspect that implies both a tendency to resist change imposed by other people and a fearlessness in making changes initiated by oneself. There is also a touch of arrogance in this aspect, an aggressive willfulness that is reinforced by the Pope’s Aries Sun sign.

When the Pope announced he was retiring for health reasons I looked at his chart expecting to find some dire transit but I found nothing that was particularly significant. When I did his secondary progressions, however, I saw something quite peculiar. Benedict’s secondary progressed Moon and Saturn are together and trine his natal Mercury and Uranus which is trine his secondary progressed Mercury. It’s a Grand Trine which also involves Benedict’s secondary progressed Uranus and Jupiter. (If you’re having trouble visualizing all this, click here to see the natal and secondary progressed horoscopes together.)

The combination of all these trines shows us that, rather than quitting under duress, Pope Benedict is actually following a clear and open path. A man of his vocation and temperament would easily see it as following a divine inspiration. What that divine inspiration may be saying is that, in an era of increased life expectancy in which the politics of being the Pontiff have never been more complex and delicate, the notion of a pope serving until his death may no longer be workable.

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