There have been many prophecies predicting the end of the world. So far, most of them have been proven false, but just when we might think it is safe to enjoy the world, one prophecy still hangs over us and the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI has only highlighted it. BRIGHT MHANGO re-examines the prophecy of Malachy.
The story goes like this: An Irish Catholic bishop went into a trance and saw 112 popes between his time and doomsday. Since then, there have been 111 popes and the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, who is the 111th pope, means that his successor will be the last pope.
Yes, it is hard to imagine the world ending and the apocalypse coming to life: fireballs falling on earth, meteors smashing dents onto the earth and annihilating all life, or fierce lava from a sudden volcanic eruption scorching everything.
Saint Malachy was a Catholic bishop of Armagh in Northern Ireland. He lived in the 20th Century.
According to the traditional account, in 1139, Malachy was summoned to Rome by Pope Innocent II. While in Rome, he purportedly had a vision of future popes, which he recorded as a sequence of cryptic phrases.
The manuscript was then deposited in the Roman Archive, and thereafter forgotten until its rediscovery in 1590.
In the manuscript, Malachy reportedly wrote short symbolic phrases in Latin representing each pope and supporters of his prophecy say the list has correctly described all popes since 1590.
For example, according to a book called Prophecy for Today, Malachy’s list described a pope later identified as Leo XIII with the words lumen in caelo [light in the heavens].
Benedict XV was supposedly religio depopulata [religion devastated; he served during World War I]; John XXIII, who had served in the port city of Venice, was pastor et nauta [shepherd and sailor]; and Paul VI was flos florum [flower of flowers] and his coat of arms displayed the fleur-de-lis [a pattern of flowers].
Pope John Paul I was depicted as de medietate lunae, which means from half of the moon, and the first two letters of his family name, Luciani, form half of the word luna.
John Paul II, the most recently deceased Pope, was described as De labore Solis [Of the Labour of the Sun.]
Karol Wojtyla (John Paul II) was born May 18th, 1920, during a solar eclipse. There was also a solar eclipse on April 8, 2005, the day of his funeral. He reigned from 1978 to 2005.
The list had 112 popes and the current pope, Pope Benedict XVI, is the 111th. This means if the prophecy is to be believed, Pope Benedict’s successor will be the last.
Benedict XVI, whose reign began after John Paul II’s passing, was foreseen as Gloria Olivae, [Glory of the Olive.] It is unclear as of yet what this means exactly, though there is speculation.
Benedict XVI, supposedly, will be the last true Pope before a great anti-Pope, said to be the devil incarnate, the Antichrist, will seize the papacy. The last pope will cause trouble and cause Rome to be destroyed, the world to end and “the dreadful Judge will judge the people.”
Once Benedict XVI leaves the papacy, the world may soon be staring the Antichrist in the face. Or will we not?
St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Malachy’s contemporary and friend, never mentioned the prophecy despite him being close to Malachy up to the point of being the one in whose hands the bishop died.
This has led some, including the Catholic Encyclopaedia, to say that the prophecy is a fabrication originating from the late 16th century.
Some historians say the prophecy was an attempt by a man called Alfonso Chacón, who was a respected intellectual, to influence the election of Cardinal Girolamo Simoncelli into papacy.
A passage befitting Simoncelli was coined but it seems the people saw through it and never elected him.
The passage that described Simoncelli never fitted his competitor Gregory XIV who went on to be elected pope and critics of the theory say that means the whole list was a forgery.
The said passage spoke of a pope Ex antiquitate urbis [from the antiquity of the city], a description that seemed to fit Simoncelli, who was cardinal of Orvieto [literally ‘old city].
But before the world breathes a sigh of relief and dispels the alleged prophecy of St Malachy, the prophecy gets interesting.
Malachy describes the last pope as Petrus Romanus or Peter the Roman. He will be the devil’s incarnate and drag his flock through many tribulations before himself facing the dreadful judge.
Interestingly, among the candidates who will take over from Pope Benedict XVI is Cardinal Tarcisio Pietro Evasio Bertone, the Cardinal Secretary of state. He was born in Romano, Italy, and surely one can argue that his name can be rendered to Peter the Roman as Malachy purported.
The other much touted candidate for the papacy is the black Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, the current head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Yes, another Peter.
Of course, there are other names on the list, but in case the two above get elected, could Malachy be the final true prophet?