Letters Welsh rugby and papal deaths

Don’t ignore Coptic popes

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e2742 (Published 19 April 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e2742
  1. Edward J Snelson, paediatrician1
  1. 1Sheffield Children’s Hospital, Sheffield S10 2TH, UK
  1. edward.snelson{at}sch.nhs.uk

After the recent grand slam victory by the Welsh rugby team it is possible that the conclusions of Payne and colleagues’ article are misleading and based on false assumptions.1 The authors based their hypothesis on the saying “every time Wales win the rugby grand slam, a Pope dies, except for 1978 when Wales were really good, and two Popes died.” However they included only Roman Catholic popes in the outcome measures, thus altering the statistical analysis to create a potentially false reassurance.

This year saw the death of the Coptic pope, Shenouda III, on the very day that Wales won the grand slam. 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. Coptic popes are the heads of the ancient see of Alexandria and directly follow on from Mark the evangelist, thus having a legitimate claim to the title. It is crucial that this new information be brought to the attention of your readership. 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.


Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e2742


  • Competing interests: None declared.


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