Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, born Joseph Ratzinger in Bavaria, Germany, in 1927, passed away on 31 December 2022, age 95, at his monastic apartments in Vatican City where he had been living since his retirement from the papacy almost a decade before. Ratzinger 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 health was the avowed reason for giving up the Ring of the Fisherman in 2013, and though he lingered for another ten years, he became increasingly feeble and made few public appearances. His health had taken a dramatic downturn in recent weeks, culminating in his passing on New Year’s Eve.
Born 16 April 1927 at 4:15 AM MET in Marktl, Germany (Rodden Rating AA), Ratzinger’s aptness for the papacy may be prefigured by the presence of asteroid Pappos (for “Pope”, Papa in Italian) at 22 Pisces in his birth chart, conjunct natal asteroid Ratzinger at 27 Pisces and squared natal asteroid Benedix (for Benedict) at 21 Sagittarius, representing the name he would choose as Pope. Pappos also conjoins the 19 Pisces Ascendant, perfect for the man whose main public identity was as Pope. Also here is asteroid Cardinal at 25 Pisces, reflecting the office he had held in the Catholic Church since 1977, when he was named Archbishop of Munich and Freising. He was also Dean of the College of Cardinals, the body that elects popes.
Broadly conjoined Pappos is asteroid Josephina at 14 Pisces, itself closely squared by asteroid Vaticana at 16 Gemini, implying a close personal connection to the Holy See. Jupiter, ruling religion generally, and asteroid Old Joe are also in this mix, at 20 and 18 Pisces respectively. Jupiter on the Ascendant depicts his life in the church, while Old Joe seems apt for the 95-year-old former Pope.
As Pope, Ratzinger was also Bishop of Rome, with asteroid Bishop at 28 Sagittarius conjunct the MC at 25 Sag, indicating the status he would reach in the world. Both Bishop and Benedix are trine the 25 Aries Sun, linking these directly to Ratzinger on a personal, self-defining level. The pair is also opposed Mars at 29 Gemini, with the revelations of sexual abuse by the clergy a major component of his papacy; and inconjunct an exact union of Venus with asteroid Roma, for Rome, at 29 Taurus, a city where he spent much of his adult life.
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, putting him in the spotlight (Sun) as an obvious choice for the conclaved Cardinals. 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, combining his former and future identities, 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 (as well as an indication of his new residence), while forming a T-Square with Pluto at 13 Cancer, indicating the augmented personal power (Pluto) which his elevation would grant him.
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.”
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 would evoke. Asteroid Josefa 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, 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, an unwillingness to further deteriorate physically and mentally while under public scrutiny.
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 were 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. Further enhancing the name’s impact for Ratzinger’s biography is Benedix’s stationary stance, turning retrograde just two days after his birth.
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 Benedict passed on 31 December 2022, asteroid Benedix was again at station, as it had been at birth, indicating a literal “turning point” had been reached for the former pontiff. At 22 Virgo, Benedix was squared its natal degree of 21 Sagittarius, forming a Grand Cross with additional natal points in his chart: conjunct asteroid Lachesis at 27 Virgo, named for the mythic Greek Fate who determines the span of life; opposing the Ascendant, Jupiter, asteroids Pappos, Cardinal and Old Joe at 19, 20, 22 and 18 Pisces; and squaring asteroid Anubis at 22 Gemini, named for the ancient Egyptian deity governing funerary rites. In the sky, Benedix was also exactly opposed Neptune at 22 Pisces (exact on his natal Pappos), in a transit T-Square with asteroid Cardinal at 27 Sagittarius on the fulcrum.
Also at station was asteroid Old Joe at 15 Taurus (exact with Uranus), which had turned direct on the 20th of December, as Benedict’s health further declined. Old Joe opposes natal asteroid Rip at 14 Scorpio, a death indicator in the form of the acronym RIP, “Rest In Peace”, a common tombstone inscription; as well as transit asteroid Anubis at 19 Scorpio, with transit asteroid Ratzinger at 16 Leo forming a T-Square, and transit Damocles, the doom hanging overhead, filling in a Grand Cross from 19 Aquarius.
Asteroid Vaticana at 8 Aquarius conjoins asteroid Atropos at 10 Aquarius, named for Lachesis’ sister Fate who actually severs the thread of life at death, when Lachesis gives the word, suggesting a death (Atropos) at the Vatican (Vaticana), were Benedict still resided. With this pair is asteroid Giuseppina, a feminine Italian variation of “Joseph”, at 11 Aquarius, further refining the scope of the death to Joseph Ratzinger personally. This cluster is also squared by asteroid Bishop at 3 Scorpio and semisquare asteroid Cardinal at 27 Sagittarius, connecting him to two other former titles. Asteroid Osiris at 3 Libra, named for the Egyptian god of the dead, squares both asteroid Pappos and the Sun at 1 and 9 Capricorn, highlighting (Sun) the passing (Osiris) of a former Pope (Pappos).
Joseph Ratzinger’s additional PNA (Personal-Named Asteroids) referents are also prominent. Asteroid Jose (Spanish for Joseph, for which there is no exact English language match) was the premiere marker for Ratzinger at his birth: at 26 Aries it closely conjoined the 25 Aries Sun (a common placement for one’s own PNA, which typically aspects the Sun, Moon, Ascendant or Mercury). Now it appears at 23 Capricorn, exactly conjunct Mercury and also conjoined Pluto at 26 Cap, opposing asteroid Josephina (a feminine variant) at 24 Cancer, bringing news (Mercury) of the death (Pluto). Pluto had been squaring Benedict’s Sun for several years, and at its prior retrograde station in April 2022 had been just one degree shy of an exact square to his natal asteroid Atropos at 29 Aries.
Asteroid Josefa (another feminine version) at 26 Leo is also at station, the third PNA to signal a major turning point for Benedict in this timeframe; it forms a T-Square, exactly opposing transit Damocles at 26 Aquarius, with transit asteroid Requiem on the fulcrum at 23 Scorpio, named for the funeral mass for the dead. Transit asteroid Rip at 13 Libra conjoined the natal Moon at 14 Libra, bringing finality to the physical body.
Joseph Ratzinger, as Benedict XVI, was certainly not the most popular Pope the Catholic Church has seen. His hardline adherence to traditional values denigrating women and denouncing homosexuality, allied with an uncompromising stance on doctrinal issues of the church, made him a formidable block to progress and integration of Catholicism into the modern world. That influence passed away ten years before the man himself; perhaps neither is to be regretted or mourned.