February 11, 2013. (Romereports.com)
In the 2,000-year-old history of the Church, only three other Popes
besides Benedict XVI have voluntarily resigned their positions.
first Pope recognized by the Church as having resigned by free will is
Saint Clement I, who led the early Christian Church in the First
In 1294, Celestine V was chosen after a conclave that lasted three years. However, just six months into his pontificate he announced his intention to resign because he considered himself unsuitable for the position. His resignation gave way to the Canon Law which allows Popes to resign at free will.
The third Pope to announce his intention to leave the Chair of Peter was Gregory XII in 1415. His resignation is seen as a sacrificial gesture to heal the Great Western Schism at the time.