News of the Blessed Father’s resignation shocked me, as with the rest of the world. It never occurred to me that it was actually possible for a Pope to abdicate his position. I have lived to see four Popes father the Catholic Church–Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II and the incumbent Benedict XVI. All of Pope Benedict’s predecessors reigned until they passed away, so it really surprised me how something like this could happen.
However, as I read deeper into the issue of papal resignation, I have discovered that although Pope Benedict is the first pope to resign in over 600 years, he is not the only one to have voluntarily stepped down from the position in the entire history of the church. As a matter of fact, there are a handful of others who have resigned before him, namely:
- Benedict IX (1032-45) – Resigned after selling the papacy to his godfather Gregory VI.
- Gregory VI (1045-46) – Resigned after being accused of purchasing to papacy.
- Celestine V (1294) – Resigned for “his longing for the tranquility of his former life.”
- Gregory XII (1406-15) – Resigned to put an end to Western Schism.
Should you want to know more about Pope Benedict XVI, and his reason for resignation here is a good read: 9 Things You Should Know About Pope Benedict XVI