photo: Richard Harris
"The Vatican announced Monday that Pope Benedict XVI is stepping down on Feb. 28. While such papal resignations are extremely rare, there are precedents in the two millennia history of the Catholic Church.
Marcellinus: This early church pope abdicated or was deposed in 304 after complying with the Roman emperor's order to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods.
Benedict IX: Sold the papacy to his godfather Gregory VI and resigned in 1045.
Celestine V: Overwhelmed by the demands of the office, this hermetic pontiff stepped down after five months as pope in 1294. Pope Benedict XVI prayed at his tomb in the central Italian city of L'Aquila in 2009.
Gregory XII: The last pope to resign, Gregory XII stepped down in 1415 to help end a church schism."
Roland Crabbe, the burgomaster of the West Flanders city of Nieuwpoort on the Belgian coast has, along with his Borough Council, apologized for the XVIIth century burnings at the stake of seventeen witches and warlocks. This is, of course, symbolic and not judicial.
" These people were condemned unjustly, on the sole basis of denunciations by jealous neighbors." He went on to say that before extending the apology, the borough had made sure that these executions were the result of allegations of witchcraft alone, and were not the result of common law prosecution of the era which could involve the death penalty. "We verified everything and our decision is also addressed to the families of these (supposed) witches who still live in Nieuwpoort."
The most famous of these witches burned in 1650 was a woman named Jeanne Panne whose father was reputed to be a warlock. Of the eleven children she had with her first husband, ten died an early natural death. When she was to remarry, she said that her dead husband was against it and was threatening to strike her dumb. This led to denunciations and the city council condemned her to torture. A place under her right eye was found in which she didn't feel any pain (a surefire proof that she was a witch) and she was burned at the stake.
"In one of the most notorious cases, a 16-year-old girl who had been raped was given 101 lashes in January for conceiving during the assault, though the rapist was pardoned, according to the Herald."
The Vatican is trying something new on the occasion of the Pope's trip to the UK in September. You want to witness the beatification of Cardinal Newman? 30 euros please (70,000 tickets available). The Evening Prayer at Hyde Park? 12 euros please (130,000 tickets available). The Papal Mass celebrated in Glasgow? 24 euros.
The trip is budgeted at 27 million euros, half of which will be paid by the British government (why?), but the ticket sales will only go towards the Vatican's half.
40 Italian woman have written a joint letter to the Pope. In it they describe the "painfully lonely lives" of priests and monks and claim to all be in relations with priests or monks. They are asking the Pope to eliminate the celibacy requirement for priesthood. Good luck. A couple of weeks ago, the Archbishop of Vienna said publicly that he thought eliminating the celibacy requirement might diminish the instances of child molestation in the Church. The Pope insisted that he retract the statement and spoke of "the value of sacred celibacy."