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Welsh papal curse backed by facts

PARIS, France, April 20 – An urban legend that says a pope dies whenever Wales wins Europe’s rugby crown is gaining statistical ground after this year’s victory in Cardiff, says a letter in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) on Friday.

In 2008, a pair of Welsh doctors dug into the history books and discovered that of eight Roman Catholic pontiffs who had died since 1883, five expired in a year when Wales won the Grand Slam.

The Grand Slam is awarded to the team that defeats allcomers in the competition gathering the four rugby-playing nations of the British Isles plus France and, since 2000, Italy.

“Every time Wales wins the Rugby Grand Slam, a Pope dies, except for 1978, when Wales was really good and two Popes died,” the researchers said, quoting a Welsh saying.

The jinx endures, the BMJ letter points out.

It says that the “research” should include Coptic popes, whose lineage dates back to Mark the Evangelist.

“This year saw the death of the Coptic pope, Shenouda III, on the very day that Wales won the grand slam,” notes Edward Snelson, a paediatrician at the Sheffield Children’s Hospital in the northern English county of Yorkshire.

“He was pope for 41 years and succeeded Cyril VI, who died in 1971, in the same month that Wales won the Grand Slam again.”

Tongue firmly in cheek, Snelson adds: “Although the association between these deaths and the sporting events may not be fully understood, this research has created a false reassurance and may be putting the lives of other popes at risk.”

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