ROME, JULY 2, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI will return Sunday to the tomb of the only one of his predecessors to abdicate Peter’s Throne, his second visit to the spot in two years.
The Pope will visit the earthquake scourged Abruzzi region of Italy on July 4 and venerate the relics of Celestine V, the 13th-century Pope who abdicated the papacy after only five months.
The Holy Father visited the tomb the first time when he went to the Abruzzi region shortly after the ’09 quake. On that occasion, he left his pallium on the tomb.
Celestine was elected to the papacy after a two-year deadlock, during a time of widespread corruption in the Church. He had a reputation for holiness, and according to Inside the Vatican editor Robert Moynihan, “The cardinals of 700 years ago seem to have chosen Celestine almost humorously, as it were, not seriously, as if to say, ‘We can’t agree on a serious “Prince-Cardinal” for Pope, so we will choose this holy, quiet, learned monk to be Pope, and watch with a certain amusement as he struggles mightily but in vain to guide the ungovernable bark of Peter.'”
The monk was chosen at age 80, just two years older than Benedict XVI when he was elected.
“But the holy Celestine,” Moynihan continued, “who pleaded with the cardinals not to choose him as the Pope, could not manage to rule the powerful cardinals around him.”
After five months he resigned, hoping to end his life in peace, but his successor, Boniface VIII, had him imprisoned and annulled all his official acts.
Regarding Benedict XVI’s two trips to the same spot, Moynihan observed: “I am not suggesting Pope Benedict XVI is thinking of following in the footsteps of the saintly Pope Celestine and resigning.
“I am suggesting that the studious Pope Benedict and the studious monk-Pope are ‘connected’ in a mysterious way.”
The decision to visit his tomb, and to leave his pallium there, the editor suggested, “contain a message the Pope cannot deliver any other way.”
“Benedict is intent on purifying the Church, at ‘cleaning house,’ both because it is the right thing to do, and so that the moral authority of the Church not be invalidated in the world’s eyes by the sins of some of her members, and leaders,” he added. “Benedict is striving to do what Celestine was unable to do: govern the Church. Reform the Church.”