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Popes who stepped down: A turbulent history

11 february 2013, 19:38
0

Pope Benedict XVI, who stunned the world on Monday with the announcement he will resign on February 28, is the first pontiff to step down in modern Catholic Church history.

At most, there have been only five papal abdications in 2,000 years, but numerous popes were deposed or exiled, 21 popes are listed as martyrs and nine others are considered martyrs.

Four popes died in exile or in prison, six were assassinated, two died of wounds received in the course of riots and one was killed when a roof collapsed.

Here are some examples of previous popes who have given up the papacy:

-- In 1045, Benedict IX, renowned as one of the most disgraceful popes the Church has known, sold his papacy to his godfather, pious priest John Gratian, so that he could get married. Reportedly unable to persuade the woman in question to have him, he returned to seize Rome.

A file picture taken on May 12, 2010 shows Pope Benedict XVI leading the Rosary at the Chapel of the Apparitions in Fatima's Sanctuary. ©AFP

A file picture taken on May 12, 2010 shows Pope Benedict XVI leading the Rosary at the Chapel of the Apparitions in Fatima's Sanctuary. ©AFP

-- In 1046, Gratian, who had reigned shortly as pope Gregory VI and was considered the true pope by many despite Benedict IX's violent return to claim the throne, was forced to resign himself amid accusations he had bought the papacy.

A file picture taken on April 19, 2005 shows Germany's Joseph Ratzinger, the new Pope Benedict XVI, waving to the crowd from the window of St Peter's Basilica's main balcony after being elected the 265th pope of the Roman at the Vatican City. ©AFP

A file picture taken on April 19, 2005 shows Germany's Joseph Ratzinger, the new Pope Benedict XVI, waving to the crowd from the window of St Peter's Basilica's main balcony after being elected the 265th pope of the Roman at the Vatican City. ©AFP

-- In 1294, Celestine V, a simple hermit who was elected to end a deadlock among cardinals, proved incompetent and stepped down after reigning a mere five months. He had issued a decree declaring it possible for a pope to resign, opening up the way for his own departure.

A file picture taken on April 6, 2006 shows Pope Benedict XVI saluting the believers during a meeting with young Catholics in St Peter's Square at the Vatican in preparation of the XXI World Youth Day. ©AFP

A file picture taken on April 6, 2006 shows Pope Benedict XVI saluting the believers during a meeting with young Catholics in St Peter's Square at the Vatican in preparation of the XXI World Youth Day. ©AFP

-- In 1415, Gregory XII resigned in a bid to end the "Western Schism", when two rival claimants declared themselves pope in Pisa and Avignon and threatened to tear apart Roman Catholicism.

This recent file picture taken on February 6, 2013 at the Paul VI hall at the Vatican shows Pope Benedict XVI arriving for the weekly general audience. ©AFP

This recent file picture taken on February 6, 2013 at the Paul VI hall at the Vatican shows Pope Benedict XVI arriving for the weekly general audience. ©AFP

-- In 1804, Pius VII signed an abdication of the papal throne before setting out for Paris to crown Napoleon to be put into effect in case he were imprisoned in France.

Picture taken on November 29, 2006 of Pope Benedict XVI celebrating a mass at the House of the Virgin Mary near Ephesus. ©AFP

Picture taken on November 29, 2006 of Pope Benedict XVI celebrating a mass at the House of the Virgin Mary near Ephesus. ©AFP

-- During the Second World War, Pius XII is reported to have signed a document which said that he was to be considered as having resigned his office should he be kidnapped by the Nazis.

Pope Benedict XVI waves as he leaves after the mass in St.Peter's Basilica to mark the 900th anniversary of the Order of the Knights of Malta, on February 9, 2013 at the Vatican. ©AFP

Pope Benedict XVI waves as he leaves after the mass in St.Peter's Basilica to mark the 900th anniversary of the Order of the Knights of Malta, on February 9, 2013 at the Vatican. ©AFP

Several popes were resigned or martyred as the Roman Empire collapsed, and the Eternal City -- sacked and depopulated by barbarian hordes -- fell prey to quarrelling factions. But the historical details of how they fell are often lost in the mist of time, and often only the legends remain.

A copy in English of the text in Latin read by Pope Benedict XVI earlier in the day announcing his resignation on February 11, 2013 at the Vatican. ©AFP

A copy in English of the text in Latin read by Pope Benedict XVI earlier in the day announcing his resignation on February 11, 2013 at the Vatican. ©AFP

Pope Benedict XVI leaving after his general audience in the Paul VI hall at Vatican. ©AFP

Pope Benedict XVI leaving after his general audience in the Paul VI hall at Vatican. ©AFP

Source: AFP


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