Could the next pope be the last of the Roman Catholic Church?
Yes, according to an ancient prophecy written by an Irish saint.
St. Malachy, bishop of Armagh in the 12th Century, predicted that the current pope -- although he was not specifically identified as Pope Benedict XVI -- would be the second-to-last pontiff before the end of the world.
Benedict said Monday that he would step down on Feb. 28, making him the first pope to resign in 600 years -– and surprising Catholics throughout the world, including New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who said he was startled by the announcement. A new pope is expected to be chosen before Easter.
As the story goes, Malachy, then an archbishop, traveled from Ireland to Rome in 1139, where he received visions about the future that included the names of the next 112 popes who would rule the church until the end of time. He wrote the names down and reportedly gave them to Pope Innocent II as a gift, but they weren’t uncovered until centuries later.
Malachy prophesied that Petrus Romanus, or Peter the Roman, would be the 112th and last pope of the Catholic Church. Pope Benedict is the 111th since Malachy had his visions.
According to legend, the prophecy reads: “In the final persecution of the Holy Roman Church, there will reign Peter the Roman, who will feed his flock amid many tribulations, after which the seven-hilled city will be destroyed and the dreadful Judge will judge the people. The End.”
I know, I know. It sounds like one of those 2012 Mayan calendar predictions. But apparently some of Malachy’s other prophecies have already come true.
Take Pope John Paul II: Malachy referred to him as “De labore Solis,” or “eclipse of the sun.” Pope John Paul II, who was born Karol Wojtyla, was born in 1920 during a solar eclipse. His funeral was conducted on the day of a partial eclipse.
Of Pope Benedict, the prophecy refers to 111th pope as "Gloria Olivae," or "the glory of the olive." (Although Pope Benedict is not a member of St. Benedict’s order, it is also known as the Olivetans.)
My dad first told me of this prophecy matter-of-factly when Benedict became pope eight years ago. I thought it was interesting then, now even more so. I’m no Bible scholar, and in no position to make an argument for or against Malachy’s predictions, but it sounds like the making of a Dan Brown novel or an “End of Days” segment on the History Channel.
If the writers and producers haven’t already done so, they’d better hurry up -- just in case Malachy is right.