Pope Benedict XVI's announcement less than two hours ago that he will step down on February 28 is an historical event of extraordinary significance, with few precedents in the history of the Roman Catholic Church. Not since the resignation of Pope Gregory XII in 1415 (during the scism controversy) has a Pontiff resigned his Office.
A truly shocking, totally unexpected piece of news which will be recorded in the history books.
The most famous precedent, that of Celestine V, Pietro da Morrone, prompted Dante to relegate him to Hell, when he penned the famous epitaph "colui che per viltade fece il gran rifuito". History now remembers Celestine V in a much more positive light. How will History remember Benedict XVI?