Farewell then, Pope XVI, who has announced his resignation from his Vatican post. According to the Guardian, Pope Benedict's aides were ‘incredulous" when he told them he would step down. So what happened? Here’s our potted guide to who, what and when...
1. why? According to the Pontiff, his age means he lacks the strength to do the job. This seems fair enough – he is 85 and has arthritis.
2. who knew it was even possible to resign? Popes can, although few have. the most famous of all was 1045 Benedict IX who in 1045 ‘sold’ his papacy and stepped down. Still, Pope XVI is the first pope to resign in 600 years, which leads us nicely to...
3. who next? His successor is hotly tipped as Ghana's Cardinal Peter Turkson. He has been described as both a ‘tearaway’ and ‘charming’, although most notably if he is successful, he will be the first black pope.
We’ve over two weeks until Pope XVI officially leaves (on 28 February - one envisages a low-key party, maybe some desk banging, but defintitely some waving from the balcony) and as we all know, a lot can happen in two weeks. Here’s what the Twitterati are saying:
@dannywallace Maybe the Pope’s giving up for Lent.
@Ed_Miliband Pope Benedict XVI will not have reached his decision to stand down lightly. His visit to the UK in 2010 was a special moment for many.
@Queen_UK No, Mr Clegg, you will not be needed to form a "coalition Pope" in Rome.