August 28, 2009.
Pope Celestine V became the first pope in history to resign from the papacy. On the occasion of his 800th birthday, Benedict XVI has declared the Celestine Year.
Elected pope in 1294, Pietro di Morrone felt obligated to give up his life as a hermit in rural Italy to take on his new pastoral responsibility. It was during this time that he founded the Celestine Order.
After 100 days as pope, he resigned and left Naples, where the papacy was at that time, to go back to the small grotto where used to spend long hours praying.
During these months, he realized he lacked adequate knowledge on world and government affairs, something necessary to be a good pope.
The day after his resignation, Boniface VIII was elected pontiff. He moved the papacy to Rome, but persecuted Celestine and jailed him for resigning as pope. He died in prison in 1296 and was buried in the Basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio in central Italy.
Last April, Benedict XVI prayed at his tomb during a visit to central Italy when he met with survivors of a strong earthquake that recently shook the area. The earthquake destroyed the Basilica, but Celestine’s tomb and relics remained intact.
During this upcoming Celestine year, those who pray before his tomb will have the possibility of receiving plenary indulgence.