Papal Resignation Math – Why February 28, 2013?

After the Pope’s shocking announcement of his resignation yesterday, I kept wondering about the timing. Why not resign right away? Why not resign at the beginning or end of a liturgical season? Why not resign on a major feast day? And why 8:00PM?

Pope Benedict XVI announced that he will abdicate the Papal throne at 8:00PM local time on February 28. I believe that most everything he does is symbolic and rich in meaning, as we saw with his gesture of laying his pallium on the tomb of Celestine V. So, if the timing of his resignation is symbolic and meaningful, how so?

First, the date: I believe the date of Pope Benedict’s resignation is tied to the death of John Paul II. Before you call me crazy, let me explain: If you calculate the time from John Paul II’s birth to death, it is 31,000 days (counting his birth-day 05/18/1920, but not his “death-day” 04/02/2005). He died 46 days short of his 85th birthday at the age of 84 years, 10 months and 15 days. Now Benedict XVI is going to resign exactly 31,365 days (counting his birthday 4/16/1927, but not his resignation day 02/28/2013) after his own birth, at the age of 85 years, 10 months and 14 days. Benedict XVI will have served as Pope exactly one year, or 365 days, later into his life than John Paul II.

Now, how about the time? Most official things in the Church–like bishop appointments–happen at noon, Rome time (CEST). The Church calendar officially changes dates at midnight–hence midnight Masses (despite the liturgy of the hours of a feast beginning the evening before). So noon or midnight would have been logical, normal, explainable times for the Pope to step down. So, why 8:00pm? Well, John Paul II was born at 5:30PM UTC+1 and died at 9:37PM UTC+1. Benedict was born at 8:30AM UTC+1 and will resign at 8:00PM UTC+1. So to be extremely precise, from John Paul II’s birth to death was 31,000 days,  4 hours, 7 minutes. From Benedict XVI’s birth to resignation will be 31,365 days, 11 hours, 30 minutes. So the exact difference between JPII’s birth-to-death and Benedict’s birth-to-resignation will be 365 days, 7 hours and 23 minutes. Ok, I have to confess at this point that the time does not seem particularly significant, only the date. If 8:00PM is meaningful, I can’t figure out why. However, I do think it is remarkable that Benedict will serve exactly one year later into life than John Paul II.

12 thoughts on “Papal Resignation Math – Why February 28, 2013?

  1. Dave O.

    “However, I do think it is remarkable that Benedict will serve exactly one year longer than John Paul II.”

    This could imply that B16’s pontificate is longer than JPIIs which obviously isn’t the case. Your earlier statement that B16 is serving later into his life than JPII is more precise.

  2. Peregrinus

    Yes, even the time is significant. How long would it reasonably take for a newly elected Pope to compose himself and vest for the first Easter liturgy (i.e., the Easter Vigil)? Does one hour sound about right? The Holy Father has timed his resignation to the minute so that the college of Cardinals will have exactly one month (remember that the last day of the month of February is inclusive here) to elect his successor to the Chair of St. Peter and still give the new Pontiff time to prepare for celebrating the sacred mysteries at the most important mass of the year, which is scheduled to begin at 9:00 p.m. local time.

    Is this pure speculation? Absolutely.

  3. Michelle

    The Vatican said that Pope Benedict’s normal work day ends at 8 pm, so he is stepping down at the end of a normal work day.

  4. Uomo Senzanome

    Benedict is numbered XVI — 16 in Arabic numerals. 2×8=16. February 28 at 8:00 pm is
    20:00 OR 8:00(pm) 28/02 (European date) or 02/28 (American date).

  5. Maria

    Interesting, and maybe Pope Benedict counted days, but to my mind it is more significant that the whole transition will take place in Lent. This time of greater prayer and sacrifice in the Church will enable Christ’s grace to flow more freely through Our Lady’s hands at a time when we will sorely need them.

  6. FrEric

    As to the time… perhaps, it is ay 8:00 p.m. Vatican time that the entire globe will be on February 28? Maybe at 8:00 p.m. Vatican time, whichever island or nation or village that gets to that date (somewhere in the Pacific) will have arrived at that date and therefore, there is a unity of day?

  7. Robertlifelongcatholic

    February 28, 2013 is the last day of the month and 8:00 p.m. is the end of his work day. It’s that simple. Adequate resignation notice and keeps the books simple. No conspiracy theories here.

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