With Pope Benedict XVI reaching both his 85th birthday and the seventh anniversary of his election as pope within days of one another, I got to thinking about things papal. Benedict is already older than John Paul II was at his death in 2005 and is now the oldest reigning pope since Leo XIII, who died at age 93 in 1903 after reigning for 25 years. Though he seems to be going along pretty strong, Benedict is also the only pope in living memory to discuss publicly the possibility of resignation. In a book in 2010 he said he would not hesitate to resign if he felt no longer able "physically, psychologically, and spiritually" to govern the Catholic Church. The last pope to resign willingly was Celestine V in 1294 after reigning for only five months.
|POPE Gregory XVI,
On a marginally related note, I did a little digging to settle a question I have had for a while about who was the last member of a religious order to be pope. A number of popes, going back to the 13th century and also including all the popes from Pius IX, who began his reign in 1846, to and including John XXIII, who died in 1963, were members of the Order of Franciscans Secular, which while officially an order is different from the communities you can find out more about here on VISION (for more info on the Secular Franciscans, go to nafra-sfo.org). Anyway, the last pope to be a member of an order other than the Seculars was Gregory XVI, who reigned from 1831 to 1846 and was a member of the Camaldolese order of Benedictine monks founded by Saint Romuald in the 11th century (New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, CA is a contemporary Camaldolese community in the U.S.) (BTW, Gregory was also the last pope to be elected who was not a bishop—he was consecrated one only after his election.)