Today, however, Paulinus of In Hoc Signo Vinces has provided an angle that makes it highly relevant. He refers to a Christmas 2008 (externally peer-reviewed) article in the British Medical Journal co-authored by Gareth C Payne, specialist registrar in clinical neurophysiology, Rebecca E Payne, general practitioner, and Daniel M Farewell, MRC/WAG training fellow in health services research/health of the public, entitled Rugby (the religion of Wales) and its influence on the Catholic church: should Pope Benedict XVI be worried? Here is the abstract of the article:
Objective To explore the perceived wisdom that papal mortality is related to the success of the Welsh rugby union team.Well God bless the Irish, then!
Design Retrospective observational study of historical Vatican and sporting data.
Main outcome measure Papal deaths between 1883 and the present day.
Results There is no evidence of a link between papal deaths and any home nation grand slams (when one nation succeeds in beating all other competing teams in every match). There was, however, weak statistical evidence to support an association between Welsh performance and the number of papal deaths.
Conclusion Given the dominant Welsh performances of 2008, the Vatican medical team should take special care of the pontiff this Christmas.
Of course, students among you will want to work in a reference to this in a term paper. Citation should be: BMJ 2008;337:a2768. (But check your own university's citation guidelines.)