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Saint Pope Celestine V

At Castrum Fumorense near Alatri in Lazio, the birth of Saint Peter Celestine, who, when leading the life of a hermit in Abruzzo, being famous for his sanctity and miracles, was elected Roman Pontiff as an octogenarian, assumed the name Celestine V, but abandoned his office that same year and preferred to return to solitude.

Saint Celestine was born as Pietro Angelerio in a small town known as Sant'Angelo Limosano in the Kingdom of Sicily. When he was a young child his father passed away and Saint Celestine began to work in the fields though his mother from his birth believed Saint Celestine was destined for so much more than menial farm work. At 17 he joined the Benedictines as a monk in the Diocese of Benevento and retired to a solitary cavern on the mountain Morrone in 1239, earning the nickname Peter of Morrone. Five years later he joined two companions in a cave in the Bruzzi region of Italy and began to live as close to the lifestyle of Saint John the Baptist as possible.

In 1244 the group formed a new religious order that was formally approved by Pope Urban IV (it would later be named after him, the Celestines). The order was made a branch of the Benedictines and largely followed the Rule of Saint Benedict but with additional severities and privations. After securing the order he again retired to a remote mountain. In April of 1292, Pope Nicholas IV died. Saint Celestine wrote to the conclave warning them that if a new Pope was not elected quickly, divine vengeance would fall upon them. The dean of the College of Cardinals shouted out during the election

"In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, I elect brother Pietro di Morrone."

He was officially elected Pope on July 5th, 1294 at the age of 79 and crowned on August 29th, taking the name Pope Celestine. Very quickly after the crowning, Saint Celestine issued a plenary indulgence to all pilgrimages who went through the Holy Door of Santa Maria di Collemaggio on the anniversary of his papal coronation - a festival (Perdonanza Celestiniana) that is still celebrated in L'Quila every August 28th. As Pope he found himself in a whirlwind of Politics without the experience of dealing with such a world. He began to consult with Cardinal Benedetto Caetani about resignation and soon issued a decree giving the right to resign. He did so, on December 13th, 1294 writing the causes moving him to resign:

"The desire for humility, for a purer life, for a stainless conscience, the deficiencies of his own physical strength, his ignorance, the perverseness of the people, his longing for the tranquility of his former life"

The next Pope to resign would be Pope Benedict XVI in 2013, 719 years later. Saint Celestine died on May 19th, 1296. He was formally canonized on May 5th, 1313. His feast day is celebrated on May 19th.

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