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Melissa Snell

Oh, Benedict!

By February 27, 2013

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If you've read our feature on popes who resigned, you know that Pope Benedict XVI is not the first pontiff to voluntarily leave the office. He's not even the first pope named Benedict to do so. In the 11th century, Benedict IX vacated the chair of his own free will. But there the similarities end. In fact, there could hardly be two more different popes than Benedict XVI and Benedict IX.

  • Pope Benedict XVI was born to hard-working, middle-class parents in Germany.
  • Pope Benedict IX was born to powerful nobility in Rome.

  • Benedict XVI was duly elected by the College of Cardinals upon the passing of the much-beloved Pope John Paul II, who had been his friend.
  • Benedict IX was forced onto the Cardinals by his father, the Count of Tusculum, after the death of the ineffectual Pope John XIX, who had been his uncle.

  • When he came to the papal chair, Benedict XVI was 78.
  • When he came to the papal chair, Benedict IX was 20.

  • Before he became pope, Benedict XVI taught theology, wrote several important theological books, and served as a theological expert at the Second Vatican Council.
  • After he became pope, Benedict IX drank, chased women, and lived a life so debauched that a revolt took place in Rome, forcing him to flee for his life. (He came back.)

  • Benedict XVI has decided to resign because, at age 85, he is in frail health.
  • Benedict IX decided to resign because, at age 33, he was either just plain tired of poping, or, it has been suggested, he wanted to marry his cousin.

  • Benedict XVI's resignation is going forward through proper channels, and is being overseen by Catholic Church officials every step of the way.
  • Benedict IX's resignation took place after he had a chat with his godfather, who paid him a hefty sum; Benedict got the heck out of Rome, and his godfather became Pope Gregory VI.

  • It can be hoped that, after he resigns, Benedict XVI will live happily and peacefully for years to come; but everyone knows he will never lead the Catholic Church again.
  • After Benedict IX resigned, he changed his mind and came back -- twice.

There's more to learn about the notorious Benedict IX, and undoubtedly, those of you who know the details of Benedict XVI's life will see more ways in which they differ.

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