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PostSubject: Papal Primer: History's 10 Most Intriguing Popes   Tue Feb 12, 2013 10:27 am

Pope Benedict XVI made headlines today (Feb. 11) when he announced he was stepping down — something no pope has done since the Middle Ages. While that's big news, the Catholic Church has seen much more dramatic upheavals.

From a cadaver on trial to a three-timing pope, here are 10 of the most interesting church fathers in history.

First father

The first head of the Catholic Church was St. Peter. Peter, whose original name was Simon, was one of Jesus' 12 apostles, according to John Julius Norwich in his book "Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy" (Random House, 2012). He preached throughout Asia Minor before coming to Rome, where he lived for 25 years, when Emperor Nero Augustus Caesar crucified him. Legend has it that he sought to be crucified upside down, deeming himself too low to share in the same death as Jesus. Though now considered the first pope, he never officially took that title during his lifetime. [Photos: Gladiators of the Roman Empire]

Stepping down

The first pope to step down was Pontian, who headed the church from A.D. 230 to 235. Unlike many of his predecessors, Pontian wasn't martyred, but rather was sentenced to hard labor in the Sardinian mineral mines by Emperor Maximus the Thracian who was persecuting Christians, particularly heads of church. The pope voluntarily abdicated to prevent the church from having a power vacuum, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Better times

The next hundred years was rough for the Catholic Church, with persecution of Christians and martyrdom for several of the church heads. But in A.D. 313, Emperor Constantine officially put an end to Christian persecution. Pope Sylvester I was the first pope to live in this less dangerous world, but when Constantine arranged the Council of Nicea to sort out official Christian doctrine, Sylvester chose to sit it out, sending underlings instead, according to "Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy." The Nicene Creed is now considered the first official statement of belief for Christians.

more here: http://www.livescience.com/27006-10-most-interesting-popes-benedict.html

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