Pope Benedict Tweets Official Resignation

Vat­i­can Ci­ty---Pope Bene­dict ⅩⅥ⁻ tweet­ed an oblique farewell to his 1,622,248 fol­low­ers to­day and ex­it­ed the Pa­pal Palace amid cheers and cel­e­bra­tion. His res­ig­na­tion of­fi­cial­ly takes ef­fect at 8 p.m. Vat­i­can Time (2 p.m. Eastern/1 p.m. Cen­tral).

The pope's de­ci­sion to re­tire in this fash­ion is ex­treme­ly ir­reg­u­lar and car­ries sig­nif­i­cant the­o­log­i­cal and safe­ty con­cerns. There is no known pro­ce­dure for re­vers­ing the pa­pal con­se­cra­tion pro­cess, which binds heav­en­ly force with­in the tem­po­ral flesh of the host. The op­ti­mal method of res­ig­na­tion by a pope there­fore is death, where­upon his mor­tal re­mains are in­terred with­in a lead-shield­ed cof­fin as a pre­cau­tion against the ef­fects of catholyt­ic de­com­po­si­tion. The pre-death sce­nario is de­cid­ed­ly less fa­vor­able, and re­quires the out­go­ing pon­tiff, or an­tipope, to main­tain a phys­i­cal dis­tance of at least 50 me­ters (164 feet) or risk an­ni­hi­lat­ing with his suc­ces­sor. This no­tably oc­curred in 1294 when Ce­les­tine Ⅴ⁻ and Boni­face Ⅷ⁺ in­ad­ver­tent­ly col­lid­ed. The ec­cle­sio­vac­u­um pro­duced by the en­counter, called the Great Schism, last­ed for two cen­turies and ne­ces­si­tat­ed the tem­po­rary re­lo­ca­tion of the pa­pal res­i­dence to the city of Avi­gnon, France.