Pope Benedict XVI Resigns, and Hollywood Reacts With Jokes

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Before a visit by Pope Benedict XVI to the U.S in 2008, Maher called the church "a child-abusing religious cult" whose leader "has a compound," "operates outside the bounds of the law," "used to be a Nazi and wears funny hats."

From Ricky Gervais and Simon Pegg to Piers Morgan and beyond, stars and media personalities took shots at the surprise announcement from the Catholic leader.

Pope Benedict XVI's resignation might have shocked the Catholic Church, but the celebrity twiteratti had its jokes all queued up for the early Monday announcement.

In announcing his abdication, the 85-year-old pope wrote that his age and failing health made him unable to fully execute the duties required of his ministry. Benedict was named pope in 2005, following the death of Pope John Paul II; his resignation marks the first time since 1415 that the leader of the Catholic Church has stepped down from power.

His time as the religion's No. 1 has been marked by social change, including debates over abortion, as well as the further uncovering of a widespread molestation scandal that has plagued the church -- a sensitive subject that became fodder for many of Hollywood's early jokes.

"Being 'The Pope' means you are married to God. So, is this like a divorce?" tweeted a delighted Ricky Gervais, who is an outspoken atheist. Comedian Jim Norton chimed in on the molestation allegations, writing, "The Pope is retiring due to 'lack of strength'. This must be in reference to how he handled the pedophilia scandal."

MSNBC host Chris Hayes rang the same bell, tweeting, "Call me crazy, but I think the next Pope should be someone who didn't help cover up child rape. Tho,that may disqualify every single cardinal." Meanwhile, comedian-actor Patton Oswalt went the geek route, adding, "Wait...ex-Pope? X-POPE! Oh shit, I gotta pitch this to Marvel. #eyelasers"

More tweets below: