In any event, the next few weeks will be spent figuring out the process of the how the new Pope is to be elected. Normally a the process begins 15-20 days after the death of the Pope, at which time all Cardinals under the age of 80 are eligible to vote and are sequestered in the Vatican before taking an oath of secrecy. However because Benedict has not died, there is a little confusion as to when the conclave will commence.
Also, no one is really sure what Pope Benedict will be called following is resignation… will it be Pope? Will he go back to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger? Will be known as “Former Pope Benedict XVI?”
There is such confusion because during the entire two thousand year history of the Church only a handful of men are known to have resigned:
304: Pope Marcellinus – Either abdicated or was deposed after offering a sacrifice to the Roman Gods after being ordered to by Emperor Maximian.
1045: Pope Benedict IX – Elected Pope at the age of 20, he sold the papacy to his godfather in 1045.
1046: Pope Gregory VI – Forced to resign after it became known that he paid Pope Benedict IX to resign. A council of bishops said he obtained the papacy through bribery.
1294: Pope Celestine V - After only five months on the job, Celestine walked away to continue his life as a recluse. He was imprisoned by his successor Boniface VIII so such behavior would not become the norm for future popes.
1415: Pope Gregory XII – Gregory resigned in order to end a rift in the church which had existed since 1378. His resignation helped to end a situation in which three different people had claims to the Papacy.