David Suchet, The Last Confession and the Power of Statistics

Several weeks ago I had an extreme pleasure to watch wonderful play in Sydney - "The Last Confession", starring David Suchet of Hercule Poirot fame (fictional Belgian detective, created by Agatha Christie).

The play deals with 33-day reign of John Paul I in 1978. To this day, suspicions about his death continue. It was a great play with very witty dialogs. David Suchet played not the Pope but his best friend Cardinal Benelli who helped him become a Pope and then kind of deserted him when the Pope tried to clean up Vatican from corrupt people. Sadly, after 33 days in power he "suddenly died".

Those that missed to see the play, missed a lot. It was theatre at its best. Whole cast was exceptional.

The unusual story about John Paul I also made me think.

There were 11 Popes with very short-lived career:

Urban VII (15-27 Sep 1590): reigned for 13 calendar days,
died before coronation

Boniface VI (April 896): reigned for 16 calendar days

Celestine IV (25 Oct - 10 Nov 1241): reigned for 17 calendar days,
died before coronation

Theodore II (Dec 897): reigned for 20 calendar days

Sisinnius (15 Jan - 4 Feb 708): reigned for 21 calendar days

Marcellus II (9 Apr - 1 May 1555): reigned for 23 calendar days

Damasus II (17 Jul - 9 Aug 1048): reigned for 24 calendar days

Pius III (22 Sep - 18 Oct 1503): reigned for 27 calendar days

Leo XI (1-27 Apr 1605): reigned for 28 calendar days

Benedict V (22 May - 23 Jun 964): reigned for 33 calendar days

John Paul I (26 Aug - 28 Sep 1978): reigned for 34 calendar days
Since there has been 265 Popes so far, it means there is 4.15% chance that the Pope will die in their first month of reign. 16th century had most of these events (three).

That is the power of statistics: it can create very unusual outcomes.