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Not the first Pope to step down

February 11th, 2013
05:46 PM ET

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.

READ MORE: Pope’s friend ‘not surprised’ by Benedict XVI’s decision

Filed under:  Catholic Church • Latest Episode
soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. raj

    It just amazes me how we people put one among us on such a high stature and then we put them down so low as someone get surprised the person once been worshiped and highly respected every country religion has its own facts beliefs and thoughts after all we are all human beings we are bound to err thats how they say we are different from the god its all about not to hurt anyone religiuos beliefs and thoughts one would have listened and practised from childhood..

    February 12, 2013 at 2:42 am | Reply
  2. nyapola joseph

    thats what christians and n
    ther leaders should emmulate,am api 4 hi
    m and we gonna pray 4 him.

    February 12, 2013 at 8:00 am | Reply
  3. ragbir

    if they are doing the work of the lord then why would they step down. it really make you wonder when they do stuff like that

    February 14, 2013 at 8:11 am | Reply
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