The surprising resignation of Pope Benedict is really interesting news, perhaps for all the wrong reasons. For those of the Catholic persuasion, the questions are what might hurt the most in the aftermath of this incredible decision by what is supposed to be the representative of God on Earth. While Benedict expressed concerns over failing mental and physical health as the primary reason for abandoning the post for the first time in centuries, a turbulent time in the history of the church (and turbulence is not exactly rare where the Roman Catholics are concerned) will leave many people wondering if Benedict simply collapsed under his own difficult reign. After all, the allegations of sexual abuse against children by Catholic priests has dominated the early part of this century, and the Vatican has often fell short of the mark, in most people’s opinions, when it came to dealing with it. Instead of outwardly condemning the actions of these rogue priests, the Catholic Church seemed to be more preoccupied with trying to preserve its “reputation” by covering up and hoping for the best. And in so doing, the covering up might have become the most damaging blow to the collective Catholic reputation that could ever be dealt.
It’s those questions that will haunt the Catholics as they set out to choose a new Pope, a new direct line to God on Earth, but for the rest of the world, many are worried about a lot more than Pope Benedict not getting to pass away honorably as the Pope. A little thing called St. Malachy’s Prophecy has a lot of people, both Christian believers and non-Christians alike, a little concerned. It wasn’t born overnight; many were equally as concerned when Pope Benedict took his holy office. It is the practice that the newly appointed Pope chooses a name for himself, and when Benedict chose his name, people were appalled that he would choose the one he did, because it only seemed to further advance St. Malachy’s Prophecy.
St. Malachy was born in 1094 A.D. in Ireland. He is famous for a couple of things. First, he predicted his own death on November 2, 1148 in France. He also claimed to have a religious vision where all the popes that would ever rise to the position were shown to him. Now, we all know how religious visions go, and St. Malachy wasn’t able to just give us names the easy way, but he was nice enough to commit the entire series of popes, right down to the bitter end, on paper, with each one described by a few phrases in Latin that hopefully would help people identify him. Or at least identify that St. Malachy was right. The prophecy was originally delivered in 1139, and Pope Innocent II in 1140 took it under his wing and kept it to himself. The prophecy would lay in secret for another half-century until it was published publicly in 1595 after being discovered in the infamous Vatican archives.
Okay, that’s pretty fascinating stuff, right? But what makes it more interesting is that St. Malachy seems to have gotten it pretty close to right a staggering amount of time. And the last ten popes especially have been money. Having said that, St. Malachy’s prophetic stanzas resemble Nostradamus prophecies in that they can be so abstract at times that almost anyone could fit them if you tried hard enough. Some are a little eerie though, especially our last one before this quitter we have now. Revered Pope John Paul II, a relative rock star of a Pope compared to Benedict, was prophesied as the “laborer of the sun.” John Paul II was born on an eclipse of the sun and entombed on the a solar eclipse as well. Spooky, right? Some people believed that his labors was compared to the sun’s relentless nature. After all, John Paul II was by far the most travelled Pope of all time. And he even got shot once and seemed undeterred in his labors.
When Pope John Paul II finally passed away in 2005, the prophecy was looked to by many as an indication of what would happen next. It was expected that the next Pope would be a descendant of the St. Benedict Order, but when the Pope went ahead and took the name, everyone was shocked at just how perfectly the prophecy fit. The really disturbing thing about this Pope was that he had to have heard about St. Malachy’s prophecies, and he had to know that he was fulfilling it, be it on purpose or not. Still, he chose the name of Benedict, fulfilling the prophecy once again.
Still, pretty fascinating, but why is everyone so fixated on this sudden retirement of Pope Benedict? Well, according to St. Malachy’s prophecies, there is only one more Pope that will reign on the Earth in its present form after Benedict. Many believe this is the last Pope because the end of the world is nearing and this will be the true beginning of the end, so to speak. But that was supposed to be years off still, as Benedict would hold the office until his death, which could still be quite a while. But now, with his resignation, the road is paved for the 112th and final Pope to appear.
According to the prophecy, the final Pope on Earth will be Peter the Roman. No Pope has ever chosen the name of Peter, for fairly obvious reasons if you know anything about Christianity at all. Picking the name of Peter would be almost as crazy as calling himself Jesus, and yet, St. Malachy insists that Peter the Roman will be our next Pope. And not years in the future, but here in the next month.
It will be very interesting to see what happens over the next few weeks as the cardinals converge to decide once again on a new Pope, not even a decade since they last had to make the decision. Pope Benedict leaves behind a web of controversy and questions, but the biggest question of all may very well be why he selected this time. Is the timing critical for the final Pope to take office? Is Pope Benedict, who already satisfied the prophecy when he selected his holy name, once again stepping aside to make sure the prophecy holds true?
We leave you with these final words from St. Malachy describing the mystical final 112th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church:
In the final persecution of the Holy Roman Church there will reign Peter the Roman, who will feed his flock among many tribulations; after which the seven-hilled city will be destroyed and the dreadful Judge will judge the people.
Rome is often referred to as the “Seven Hills of Rome.”