The last time a pope left office while still alive was in 1415.

The retirement plan for pope’s is not well defined.

When he became Pope at age 78, Benedict XVI was already the oldest man elected in nearly 300 years.

Considering that for the past six centuries popes have left office when they leave this life, the effect of having a surviving ex-pope is unclear.

When Benedict XII resigned, he said he was too tired and unable to give the amount of energy needed to serve as pope in today’s world.

The Vatican said that no specific medical condition prompted Benedict's decision to become the first pontiff to resign in 600 years.

The last time a pope left office while still alive was in 1415.

Pope Gregory XII resigned the papacy in 1415 to put an end to a problem that had divided the Roman Catholic for 40 years.

Gregory XII did not resign due to being fatigued or ill. His was a political retirement. He was competing with another person in France claiming to be the real pope. Both popes were to resign, making way for one true pope to be chosen in order to unify the church.

Things didn’t work out six centuries ago. Even though he resigned and the search began for a new pope, Gregory XII died one month before the pope who would unify the church was selected.

But this is not a move to unify the church. This pope will still be around when the new pope pontificates about issues of the day.

What happens if they disagree? Part of the job of being pope is being infallible. Does he resign from that, as well?

That is not sarcasm or a cheap joke at the church’s expense. This is ground that hasn’t been covered since the invention of the printing press.

Pope Benedict XVI is on Twitter. With one 140-character post, he could create quite a rift.

Of course, Benedict XII has said he plans to live in seclusion and not be a problem for the church going forward. He is resigning because he sees the need for the pontiff to be energetic enough to lead the church.

But it won’t be easy for the new pope.

I know in a church I used to attend, a young pastor was hired to fill the pulpit after the retirement of a pastor who was 70 years old and had been at the church for more than a dozen years.

That pastor remained in the church. Beyond that, another former pastor who had been a part of the church’s hay days had also retired back in the community and he began attending the church as a member again, as well.

That young pastor had to feel the glares anytime he said something the least bit controversial. You know all of the older people who had enjoyed relationships with the other two pastors for years would look to them to see if the new guy is right.

I can’t imagine what would have happened if either of them had ever shaken his head to disagree with a point.

That was one pastor at one Southern Baptist church in Oklahoma.

I don’t even know if the effect is scalable when you are talking about the pope.

It seems that Benedict XII’s motives are pure. He wants to make way for someone who can lead the church with more energy.

As the College of Cardinals convenes in a Papal Conclave to select a new leader, some have discussed the end of the European ascension to the papacy. Some have discussed a pope from South America or another region where Catholicism has enjoyed significant recent growth.

Even for non-Catholics, the selection of a new pope is a suspenseful process. The upcoming weeks and months should be very interesting.

Kent Bush is the publisher of the Augusta Gazette, the El Dorado Times, and the Andover American newspapers. He can be contacted at: