Monday, 11 February 2013

Papal resignation - but not the first

I'm not Catholic, but my wife and kids are, so I assumed I had a fair knowledge of the workings of the Roman Catholic Church - enough at least for a heathen proddy like me to get by with! But I had absolutely no idea that popes could resign.

But resign they can, as today's announcement from Pope Benedict XVI goes to show. The last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII in 1415 after a nine year stint in the job, but even as recently as the Second World War various popes have issued conditional letters of resignation to take effect should certain circumstances occur - such as kidnap by the Nazis or imprisonment by Napoleon. It's quite a fascinating history, neatly summarised on Wikipedia at

You live and learn, but this is another extraordinary day for your diary - the first pope to resign in six centuries.


Pre-order my new book, Tracing Your Irish Family History on the Internet, through Pen and Sword (30 April 2013), or purchase early at Who Do You Think You Are Live 2013 in London. For my other genealogy books, please visit; whilst for my online Scottish based genealogy courses please visit the Pharos Teaching and Tutoring Ltd site.

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