Pope Benedict appears to have become quite a fan of Pope Celestine V. He has left his pallium on Celestine’s tomb and this Sunday is scheduled to pray before his relics for the second time in 15 months.
Celestine V is a unique pope. Chosen by a long deadlocked conclave in 1294, he was a saintly old monk (in a time of rather unsaintly popes) with neither desire nor talent for Vatican politics and administration. Overwhelmed, he resigned after only five months, the only pope to ever resign.
He hoped to end his life in peace far from Vatican politics. But his nasty successor, Boniface VIII, who not-so-by-the-way had encouraged him to resign, soon had him imprisoned. The old monk-pope died under Boniface’s imprisonment near the age of 90.
I am not going to read too much into Benedict’s veneration of Celestine. One reason for this Sunday’s event is the celebration of Celestine’s 800th birthday. But Benedict’s reverence for this particular pope is interesting indeed.