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Pope Francis is shaking things up in the Catholic Church to such an extent that many talk about a “Francis revolution.” Yet the single most revolutionary act committed by any pope in at least the last 600 years fell exactly one year ago, and it wasn’t Francis who did it.
On Feb. 11, 2013, Pope Benedict XVI used a meeting of cardinals discussing new saints to deliver the stunning announcement that he planned to resign, effective 8 p.m. Rome time Feb. 28. The news was a total surprise to everyone except a handful of papal intimates, and it set the stage for all the drama that has followed.
Francis wins plaudits for his humble nature, but Benedict’s act was arguably the zenith of papal humility.