By Lucky Gold & Richa Naik, CNN
While it is rare for a pope to step down, it has happened before – though not always by choice.
Nearly 1,000 years ago, Pope Benedict IX was accused of rape and murder (one historian even called him “a demon from hell in the disguise of a priest”). He was so despised that the Church actually paid him to quit.
Four hundred years later, Pope Gregory XII was pressured to resign in order to end the Western Schism, a division in the Church.
Although Vatican records are sealed on the subject, it is said that during World War II, the controversial Pope Pius XII had a letter of resignation prepared, in case he was kidnapped by the Nazis.
But there was one pope who chose, completely voluntarily, to give up his crown. In 1294, Pope Celestine V resigned after only five months. He preferred the simple life of a monk to the majesty of being pope.
Perhaps Pope Benedict XVI was inspired by Celestine’s example?
He has visited Celestine’s tomb twice in just two years. You can see photos from his visit in the video above.