This picture shows a Statue of St Peter outside St Peter's basilica at the Vatican after it was announced that Pope Benedict XVI will resign on February 11, 2013. Pope Benedict XVI on February 11, 2013 announced he will resign on February 28, a Vatican spokesman told AFP, which will make him the first pope to do so in centuries. AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTO
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Pope Benedict XVI stunned the world by announcing his resignation Monday morning. However, he is not the first pope to do so.
The first pope to resign was Pope St. Pontian in 235. His date of birth is not known, but it is said he is from Rome. According to the Liberian Catalogs, he was made pope July 21, 230.
Roman Emperor Maximinus I (emperor from 235-238) began a persecution directed at the heads of the Catholic Church. Pope St. Pontian was banished to the island of Sardinia. There, Pope St. Pontian resigned Sept. 28, 235 to allow the election of a new pope.
Pope St. Pontian died on Sardinia in 235.
The next pope was Pope Benedict IX in 1045. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Pope Benedict IX resigned his office into the hands of Archpriest John Gratian in order to marry. Gratian became Pope Gregory VI but was deposed a year later.
After Pope Gregory VI came Pope Clement II who died in 1047. When he died Pope Benedict IX gained the papacy for eight more months.
The next resignation is probably one of the best known. Pope Celestine V resigned in 1294. Before he became pope, he was Pietro di Murrone born in the Neapolitan province of Moline.
After becoming a priest, he lived a life of solitude in the wilderness. He at first was reluctant to accept his election, but after praying he knew the benefit of many was greater than his own. He took the name Pope Celestine V.
After awhile, Pope Celestine V decided that affairs of state took up time he thought should be devoted to piety and he feared for his soul. He decided that it was necessary to resign.
The day after he resigned, Benedetto Gaetani was elected Pope Boniface VIII by conclave.
Pope Boniface VIII issued the decree that is now used today with Pope Benedict XVI that allows popes to resign.
However, after his resignation, Pope Boniface VIII kept Pope Celestine V in captivity until his death 18 months later. He was canonized in 1313.
The last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII, who stepped down in 1415 in a deal to end the Great Western Schism among competing papal claimants.
(Source: Catholic Encyclopedia)