Popes who stepped down

2013-02-11 18:29
Pope Benedict XVI (Picture: AP)

Pope Benedict XVI (Picture: AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Vatican City - Pope Benedict XVI, who stunned the world on Monday with the announcement he will resign on 28 February, 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.

- 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.

- 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.

- 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.

- 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.

- During World War II, 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.

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.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
Read more on:    pope benedict xvi  |  pope francis  |  vatican city

Beirut protest turns violent

2015-10-08 22:24

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Rugby World Cup 2015

All the action from the 2015 RWC, including live coverage of all 48 matches, breaking news, fixtures, results, logs - and much more!


Rugby World Cup 2015

De Allende's star burns bright
Boks were 'in a dark space'
Pacific island teams singled out for rough tactics?
Ireland favourites but France bullish
Traffic Alerts

It is always easier to notice the faults in others rather than face our own. Focusing too much on the perfect and ideal scenario...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.