Which way will the Church go this time?

Pope Benedict XVI. (Reuters files)

Pope Benedict XVI. (Reuters files)

Simon Kent, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:24 AM ET

Then there was none.

Pope Benedict XVI is resigning and in doing so becomes the first vicar of Christ to choose the manner (and timing) of his own departure since the Middle Ages.

Traditionally the position only becomes available when the incumbent dies in office.

The last pope to resign was Gregory XII, who left the papacy in 1415 to end what was known as the Western Schism among a host of competitors for the papacy.

The Catholic Church can only hope there is no division this time around because the surprise exit of the current pontiff leaves Rome totally unprepared for what comes next.

In the recent past, popes have been elected with fair warning as their predecessorís aging became apparent both to their flock and the College of Cardinals alike.


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