Pope Celestine V, the first pope to resign

Pope Celestine V at his coronation as Pope

Pope Celestine V was a saint. He was born in 1215 in the kingdom of Sicily and his parents named him Pietro Angelerio. His father died, but it was his mother whom had formed him spiritually. He became a Benedictine Monk when he was only seventeen years old.

He was a man who liked an ascetic life and he loved very much to live in solitude.

Some years later he left the Benedictine Order and went to live in Central Italy with two other companions. They had his same life style of asceticism and solitude. He fasted everyday, with the exception of Sundays. His prayer life was very intense.

In the year 1244 he founded the order named after him, the Celestines.

After the death of Pope Nicholas IV the College of the Cardinals elected Pietro Angelo to be the next pope. He obeyed what for him was the clear voice of God, although he had to give up his life of solitude. He was crowned at Santa Maria di Collemaggio in Aquila and he took the name which we know him by today.

 His acts as Pope 

His notable acts as pope include :

  • A decree confirming an earlier decree of Pope Gregory X: the Cardinals must be shut in a conclave to elect a new pope;
  • The second decree was a declaration that any pope had the right to abdicate the papacy. He was the first pope to exercise this right.
  • He issued a papal bull in which he granted a plenary indulgence to all pilgrims visiting Santa Maria di Collemaggio through its holy door. The visit must happen on the anniversary of his papal coronation.

 His renunciation

Pope Celestine V had a desire for humility, for a purer life, for a stainless conscience. He felt also that his physical strengths were deficient and that he was ignorant. He also mentioned that the people were too perverse and that he longed the tranquility of his former life!

On December 13th, 1294 he renounced his position as pope and retired again in solitude.

But his successor, Pope Boniface VII did not allow him to live in his retirement and sent for him. When Celestine tried to escape, he put him in prison in a castle.There he died on May 19th, 1296 due to the infected air and his age. He was 82 years old.

Although this Vicar of Christ has reigned for such a short period, The Catholic Church has declared him a Saint.

Since then there is no other pope in history who has used the name Celestine.

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