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Monday, February 11, 2013

POPE RESIGNATIONs in Roman Catholic Church history

Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peter's Square, Rome, 2010
The Vatican announced Monday that Pope Benedict XVI is stepping down on Feb. 28. The sudden announcement caught Catholics around the world off guard- becoming the first pontiff to step down in nearly 600 years. While such papal resignations are extremely rare, there are precedents in the two millennia history of the Catholic Church.

Marcellinus (296 - 304) : 

This early church pope abdicated or was deposed in 304 during the Diocletian persecutions of 303, after complying with the Roman emperor's order to hand over scriptures to Roman authorities and burn incense to the pagan gods. He didn't actually resign, but his actions probably caused him to cease being pope.  Such actions would have disqualified him from the priesthood and, therefore, the papacy. His name was kept off the official list of popes for a while, but today he is there and his papacy is marked as ending with his death.

Benedict IX (Pope on three occasions between 1032 and 1048) 

Sold the papacy to his godfather Gregory VI (1045-1046) and resigned in 1045. Born in Rome as Theophylactus of Tusculum, he was Pope on three occasions between 1032 and 1048. One of the youngest popes, he was the only man to have been Pope on more than one occasion and the only man ever to have sold the papacy

Celestine V (1294) : 

Overwhelmed by the demands of the office, this hermetic pontiff stepped down after five months as pope in 1294.  Pope Benedict XVI  prayed at his tomb in the central Italian city of L'Aquila in 2009.

Gregory XII (1326 - 1417)

Pope Gregory XII (1326 - 1417) was the last pope to resign before Pope Benedict XVI.
The last pope to resign, Gregory XII stepped down in 1415 to help end a church schism.

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