Precedents for papal resignations

From left, statues of St. Theodora, St. Beatrice Virgin and Martyr, St. Catherine of Siena, and St. Galla flank Pope Alexander VII's Coat of Arms on Bernini's Colonnade at the Vatican, at the Vatican, Monday, Feb. 11, 2013. Pope Benedict XVI said Monday he lacks the strength to fulfill his duties and on Feb. 28 will become the first pontiff in 600 years to resign. The announcement sets the stage for a conclave in March to elect a new leader for world's 1 billion Catholics. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

From left, statues of St. Theodora, St. Beatrice Virgin and Martyr, St. Catherine of Siena, and St. Galla flank Pope Alexander VII's Coat of Arms on Bernini's Colonnade at the Vatican, at the Vatican, Monday, Feb. 11, 2013. Pope Benedict XVI said Monday he lacks the strength to fulfill his duties and on Feb. 28 will become the first pontiff in 600 years to resign. The announcement sets the stage for a conclave in March to elect a new leader for world's 1 billion Catholics. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

The Vatican announced Monday that Pope Benedict XVI is stepping down on Feb. 28. While such papal resignations are extremely rare, there are precedents in the two millennia history of the Catholic Church.

Marcellinus: This early church pope abdicated or was deposed in 304 after complying with the Roman emperor's order to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods.

Benedict IX: Sold the papacy to his godfather Gregory VI and resigned in 1045.

Celestine V: Overwhelmed by the demands of the office, this hermetic pontiff stepped down after five months as pope in 1294. Pope Benedict XVI prayed at his tomb in the central Italian city of L'Aquila in 2009.

Gregory XII: The last pope to resign, Gregory XII stepped down in 1415 to help end a church schism.

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