One of the last decrees from the outgoing pope Benedict has now been made public and is sending shockwaves around the world. Some Catholics have welcomed the news, particularly those in Ireland who could never understand why a period of restraint always contained st. Patrick' s day.
With the calendar reversed, Catholics are free to have 6 weeks of excess meaning the other 46 weeks of the year are to be observed with strict abstinence, something existing cardinals will struggle with.
Such a change may provide an overall improvement in health for those observing the new rules - many choose to give up alcohol or chocolate for lent and health professionals point to the obvious benefits.
Critics though have already pointed out that far from signalling the return to relevance for the Catholic church, this could be it’s downfall. If enough believers give up alcohol for the new 46 week lent, the birthrate in years to come would fall through the floor.
Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair who famously converted after he left office was said to be “considering his position”.