Popes usually hang on to high office with the persistence of politicians — so Pope Benedict XVI’s announcement yesterday that he will retire for health reasons is historically unusual. Benedict, formerly known as Joseph Ratzinger, said he wished to “devotedly serve the holy church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer” as he dropped his bombshell.

To mark the papal departure, Crikey has assembled some Pope facts for conversational fodder and to use at pub trivia nights …

0.44: size of the Vatican (in square kilometres).

1: England, Holland, Portugal, Poland, Palestine, Burgundy and Dalmatia have each produced one Pope.

2: Popes to have come from Spain and the North African region.

Popes have come from from Sicily.

Popes have come from Syria.

Popes were German. Eight is also the number of accounts followed by Benedict XVI on Twitter (he recently set up a profile). In case you’re wondering who the Pope would follow on Twitter, the answer is himself, in eight different languages.

13 Popes were French.

15 Popes were Greek.

30 Popes (or 37%) have died martyrs. So Benedict has done pretty well to leave alive.

34: tweets composed by the Pontiff.

39 people have claimed they held the position of Pope, although the Vatican ruled otherwise.

59.9: median age of Catholic bishops in Australia.

61.2: average life span of all known Popes.

71: median age of Catholic brothers in Australia.

74: median age of Catholic sisters in Australia.

78 Popes have been posthumously canonised as saints. John Paul II is on his way after being beatified.

84: Pope JP-2 died in office at this age, on June 4, 2005.

85: current age of Pope Benedict XVI — reportedly only the second Pope to reach this milestone.

194 Popes have come from Italy.

263: number of Popes in total.

598: years since a Pope last resigned (Gregory XII in 1415).

3000: number of civil lawsuits filed against the Catholic Church in the US.

3085: number of Catholic priests in Australia.

708,618 Australian Catholics regularly attend mass.

736,595 students attend Catholic schools in Australia.

900,000: estimated number of ex-Catholics in Australia (data from 2006).

5,439,268 Australians identify as Catholic, according to ABS statistics — 25.3% of the population. Catholicism is Australia’s largest religion.

1.2 billion: number of Catholics worldwide.

$3 billion: amount of money paid out by the Catholic church in US legal settlements.

CORRECTION: The original version of this article stated Pope John Paul II had been made a saint. While he has been beatified he is yet to enter sainthood.

Peter Fray

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