Popes longer in the tooth than the Papa Ratzi were able to stay awake until midnight; either his hunky assistant needs to put him to bed for a nap that afternoon or Benedict needs help the world out and step aside and retire to the Alps.

The announcement prompted rumours that the pontiff’s health was poor, but the Vatican dismissed such fears, saying the break with tradition was simply to ensure the 82-year-old was not too tired to deliver his crucial “Urbi et Orbi” message on Christmas Day.

The aim was to “alleviate a little the Pope’s tiredness”, said the Vatican’s official spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi.

Vatican officials added that the decision was taken two months ago, in order to allow television channels around the world to alter their schedules.

Also see: “Daily Kos: Pope declares 10pm is now midnight.”

Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding