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Pope Benedict XVI: First Pope to Resign in 600 Years


St Peter's Basilica, the heart of the Vatican, in 1630, by Viviano Codazzi. (Photo: Wiki Commons)

The last Pope to step down from office was Gregory XII back in 1415.

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He resigned to end what was called the 'Great Western Schism,' when Christendom was divided by rival Popes.

"This was a way of restoring unity to a divided church," says James Bretzke.

Father Bretzke is a professor of moral theology at Boston College.

"He was considered to be a noble person in stepping down," Bretzke adds. "The Pope that had stepped down much earlier was cast by Dante into Inferno for stepping down. But Pope Gregory they considered that to be a noble move."