Pope Francis is in the spotlight, as he was recently named Time magazine's Person of the Year, and his reputation grows as a truly modern pontiff. Astrology holds clues to the pope's ability to inspire the masses and transform the Roman Catholic Church as we know it -- and the timing is just right.
Uranus, the planet of independence, is in individualistic Aries, where it reminds us that personal breakthroughs can lead to significant social change. The importance of this transit is amplified by its seven stressful squares with powerful Pluto in hierarchical Capricorn from 2012 until 2015.
This is a perfect planetary formula for struggles between newly emerging forms of expression and the entrenched systems and beliefs of large organizations. This contrast is most obviously expressed with the pope and the Catholic Church.
Pope Francis, the first non-European pontiff in almost 1,300 years, seems to represent the power of one person to shake the structure of a major institution. He lives in simpler quarters than his predecessors, speaks out about income disparity, and emphasizes the need for compassion and mercy. While he's not altering the Church's positions on abortion, contraception, homosexuality and female priests, his emphasis thus far has been on social justice.
The relationship between doctrine and spirituality is evident in the Astrology birth chart of the man born as Jorge Mario Bergoglio at 9 p.m. on December 17, 1936, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. A close opposition of rule-bound Saturn and divine Neptune represents the need to turn idealism (Neptune) into reality (Saturn).
Individuals and institutions
This aspect also symbolizes the split between form (Saturn) and faith (Neptune), and between rules (Saturn) and compassion (Neptune). The Pope has the wounded healer, Chiron, conjoined with his karmic Lunar South Node in Gemini, forming stressful squares with his Saturn-Neptune opposition. This is another representation of the contrast between responding to human suffering and maintaining religious rules.
Freedom is a powerful theme in Pope Francis' chart, with his Sun in visionary (but sometimes judgmental) Sagittarius and his Moon in egalitarian Aquarius. These key placements strongly suggest that he's more a man of the future than one stuck in the past. Still, his Jupiter, the planet of beliefs, and mental Mercury are in sometimes rigid Capricorn, which usually seek understanding through traditional systems.
However, the intellectual structures of his Mercury in Capricorn are being shaken and profoundly transformed by the challenging aspects it's now getting from Pluto and Uranus. The patterns that have shaped his thinking are in the midst of radical changes and perceptual breakthroughs that will continue to produce surprising messages.
Mars in Libra tempers anger with reason
The new Pontiff's chart aligns with another current astrological pattern that puts him in synch with these times. His natal Mars, the planet of action and aggression, is in peaceful Libra, where transiting (current Mars) began an extended stay on December 7. This is traditionally considered a difficult position, as the spontaneity and self-interest of Mars are thought to diminish in diplomatic and indecisive Libra.
Mars stays in Libra until late July, challenging us to temper anger with reason and to predicate our actions on the anticipated reactions of others. The upside of this uncharacteristically long transit is building bridges with adversaries and turning them into allies. A downside is the inclination to mask intentions by appearing more conciliatory and accommodating than one really is.
Pope Francis has the difficult task of putting a more human face on the Roman Catholic Church, while also respecting its traditions. The relationship between its spiritual principles and our earthbound needs is a long and complicated one that he deserves credit for addressing.
Time will tell how far he can move its vast administrative structure and cultural values into the modern world. It's an enormous task that will meet enormous resistance from conservative Catholics and entrenched church apparatchiks. But, at least from an astrological perspective, it appears that Pope Francis truly believes in the Christian ideal of compassion, and he is willing to shake up the Church to make it a priority.