On the morning of Wednesday April 20, 2005, I read that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had been elected Pope and had taken the name Benedict XVI.
[Graphic: The new Pope Benedict XVI, waves from a balcony in the Vatican, ABC]
As I then that morning posted to my Yahoo Group CED (now terminated), I remembered that a friend had told me at church that Nostradamus had predicted that the next Pope would be a Benedictine and the last Pope in history. But as I am a Protestant and am sceptical of extra-Biblical prophecy (but I don't rule it out since the Old Testament contains at least one example of accurate prophecy by a pagan, Balaam in Num 22:35-24:25 and there are several examples of Christian prophets in the New Testament - Acts 11:27; 13:1; 15:32; 21:10; 1 Cor 12:28-29; Eph 2:20; 3:5; 4:11), I had thought nothing further about it until I read the new Pope's name.
When I did read that the new Pope's name was "Benedict XVI", I was stunned and immediately did a Google search on "Pope + Benedict" and found this 2004 commentary by a Ronald L. Conte Jr., on the prophecies of a St Malachy (not Nostradamus) who in the 12th century predicted in brief Latin phrases the next 112 Popes. As far as I know I had never heard of St Malachy, but what struck me was that Conte correctly predicted at least a year earlier, while Pope John Paul II was still alive, that "The next Pope after John Paul II will take the name Pope Benedict XVI" (my emphasis):
The Future and the Popes, Ronald L. Conte Jr., Catholic Planet, November 14, 2004. About the year A.D. 1139, Saint Malachy O'Morgair, Archbishop of Armagh, Ireland, wrote down a list of Popes. He listed 112 future Popes, each described by a phrase in Latin. There has been increasing interest in this list among Roman Catholics, for two reasons. First, the descriptions of Popes #109 and #110 match the pontificates of Popes John Paul I and John Paul II to a tee. Second, there are only two more Popes on the list, and the last Pope on the list is given a long apocalyptic description, instead of a quaint and cryptic phrase.
Pope John Paul I Pope #109 on St. Malachy's list is given the phrase: "From the Half of the Moon." Pope John Paul I was elected on August 26 of 1978, when the moon was in its last quarter (i.e. half the moon was visible in the sky). He died on September 28, when the moon was again in its last quarter. The length of his Pontificate was only 33 days, a little more than the length of one lunar cycle. St. Malachy's prophecy matches John Paul I's Pontificate well.
Pope John Paul II Pope #110 on St. Malachy's list is given the phrase: "From the Labor of the Sun." What kind of labor does the sun do? The sun's work, so to speak, is to travel around the earth. The sun constantly travels around the world. And so does Pope John Paul II. He is the most traveled Pope in history. His Pontificate is marked by his constant travels around the world. St. Malachy's phrase fits John Paul II's Pontificate precisely.
The First Pope After John Paul II Pope #111 on St. Malachy's list is given the phrase: "From the Glory of the Olive." This prophetic phrase has several meanings which correctly apply to the next Pope after John Paul II. a. What is the glory of the olive? The olive branch is a well-known symbol of peace. The glory of the olive is peace. The next Pope after John Paul II will be a man of great peace. Peace will be his banner, peace will be his work, peace will be his goal. He will seek peace among individuals, among nations, among Catholics, between Catholics and other Christians, and between Catholics and adherents of other religions. The next Pope after John Paul II will have a Pontificate distinguished for seeking Peace around the world. He is correctly called the Pope of Peace. .... The next Pope after John Paul II may not have distinguished himself yet in works of peace-making. Or, he may have distinguished himself in peace-making in God's eyes, but not yet in the eyes of the world. ... Some say that this prediction of St. Malachy, "From the Glory of the Olive," refers to the Order of St. Benedict, because they have a well-known group within their order called the 'Olivetans.' There is some merit to this idea. But it does not mean that this Pope will come from the Order of St. Benedict, but rather that he will take the name of Saint Benedict and will live in imitation of him. ... The next Pope after John Paul II will take the name Pope Benedict XVI, in imitation of Saint Benedict and also of Pope Benedict XV. Just as Pope Benedict XV was an emissary of peace, so will Pope Benedict XVI be an emissary of peace. Just as Pope Benedict XV sought peace and spoke of peace and wrote papal documents seeking peace, so will Pope Benedict XVI do also. Just as Pope Benedict XV failed to achieve peace in the world, so will Pope Benedict XVI fail to achieve peace in the world. Just as the Pontificate of Benedict XV began prior to World War I, so will the Pontificate of Benedict XVI occur prior to World War III. After the Pontificate of Benedict XVI, World War III will begin. The Arab nations will threaten and attack the United States; they will threaten, attack, invade and conquer Europe; they will threaten, attack, invade and conquer the northern part of Africa. It is God's will. ... Pope Benedict XVI will be like Saint Benedict, who lived in the fifth and sixth centuries. He will be a man dedicated to peace and holiness. ... Pope Benedict XVI will die prior to, or at the very beginning of, World War III. Therefore, he will die in either 2009 or 2010. His reign will be short, like the reign of the holy Pope who reigns after him. I am not certain when Pope Benedict's reign will begin. He must have some number of years in his brief reign, to accomplish his tasks of peace-making. He must therefore be elected soon.
The Second Pope After John Paul II Pope #112 on St. Malachy's list is given this description: `In the final persecution of the Holy Roman Church there shall reign Peter the Roman who will feed his flock amid many tribulations, after which the seven-hilled city will be destroyed and the terrible judge will judge the people.' ...
I later bought two books on St. Malachy's prophecies, one called "Prophecy for Today" (1984) by a Catholic, Edward Connor, who, after acknowledging that the actual publication of the prophecies dates from "1590 when a Benedictine monk, Arnold de Wyon, discovered it in the Vatican archives" and therefore "74 [Popes] had already reigned when the list was discovered," points out "that the prophetic utterances did fit all the popes after 1590 with uncanny aptness" (his emphasis):
"THE PROPHECY OF ST. MALACHY Few private prophecies have captured the popular imagination like that prophecy on the popes ascribed to St. Malachy O'Morgair, Archbishop of Armagh, Ireland, who died in 1148. Tradition has it that when Malachy visited Pope Innocent II in Rome in 1139, he was granted a vision of all the Holy Fathers of the future. He wrote down a description of each in two to four Latin words and gave the list to Innocent, who was deeply troubled at the time and who is said to have derived great comfort from the prophecy. Nothing more is heard of the list until 1590 when a Benedictine monk, Arnold de Wyon, discovered it in the Vatican archives. It was published, promoting a controversy that has continued to our day. Since Malachy was a good friend of St. Bernard of Clairvaux (in whose arms he died), it is asked why the latter did not mention the prophecy in his famous Life of St. Malachy. Why was the list lost for so many years? Of the 112 popes, described in the prophecy, 74 had already reigned when the list was discovered, and opponents of the prophecy claim that the descriptions of these are far more exact than those 74 subsequent pontiffs. Was not the list the work of a forger who simply used hindsight to describe the popes of the preceding 450 years, and clever ambiguity for the popes of the future? Proponents of the prophecy, however, stand on the fact that the prophetic utterances did fit all the popes after 1590 with uncanny aptness." (Connor, E., "Prophecy for Today," , Tan: Rockford IL, Fourth Edition, 1984, pp.7-8. Emphasis original).
Hogue reviewed all St Malachy's 112 prophecies and concluded (setting aside his claim that "of the last 36 mottoes forecast for beyond the publication date of 1595 ... A ghost writer under Malachy's name is almost certain) that "there is enough evidence for the open-minded that ... St. Malachy made some remarkably accurate predictions that go beyond chance" (my emphasis):
"Post-Wion Prophecy Assessment Clearly the skeptics are right. There is a dramatic change in the focus of the last 36 mottoes forecast for beyond the publication date of 1595 ... A ghost writer under Malachy's name is almost certain. But is the term con artist or forger fair? If we review the last 36 mottoes in the list, I believe that there is enough evidence for the open-minded that this mystery author of the Papal Prophecy of St. Malachy made some remarkably accurate predictions that go beyond chance." (Hogue, J., "The Last Pope: The Decline and Fall of the Church of Rome: The Prophecies of St. Malachy for the New Millennium," Element Books: Shaftesbury UK, 1998, p.373).
Connor, writing in 1984, near the beginning of the papacy of Pope John Paul II (1978-2005) notes that if "John Paul II" is "De Labore Solis (`From the labor of the Sun')" then "Only two more popes remain on Malachy's list":
"John Paul II (1978-): De Labore Solis ("From the labor of the Sun."). Only two more popes remain on Malachy's list: De Gloria Olivae (`From the Glory of the Olive') and Petrus Romanus (`Peter the Roman.') The prophecy concludes: "In the final persecution of the Holy Roman Church there shall reign Peter the Roman who will feed his flock amid many tribulations, after which the seven-hilled city will be destroyed and the terrible judge will judge the people." (Connor, Ibid., p.9) .
Hogue, writing in 1998, near the end of John Paul II's papacy, also lists in the book's Contents "John Paul II" as "110 De Labore Solis" with "111 De Gloria Olivae" and "The Last Pope Petrus Romanus":
"110 DE LABORE SOLIS (From the Sun's Labor) John Paul II: 1978- ...
110 DE LABORE SOLIS (From the Sun's Eclipse) John Paul II and His Future ...
111 DE GLORIA OLIVAE (From the Glory of the Olive) c.2000-2020?...
THE LAST POPE: PETRUS ROMANUS c.2020?"
(Hogue, Ibid., p.xiii)
and Hogue asks, "Are We Two Popes Away from Judgment Day?":
"The Last Pope climaxes with a foretaste of the tribulation and apocalypse expected for the remaining two popes on St. Malachy's list, called Glory of the Olive and Peter of Rome. The final words to the prophecy of St. Malachy are hopelessly doom-laden ... Are We Two Popes Away from Judgment Day?" (Hogue, Ibid., pp.xx, 1. Emphasis original)
I still am undecided about this and I certainly don't agree with much of Conte's fanciful speculations on his web page. However, contrary to predictions that Benedict's papacy would be marked by enforcement of doctrinal orthodoxy (i.e. "A Leaner, Smaller, Purer Church") which would seem hard to reconcile with Conte's prediction that "Pope Benedict XVI be an emissary of peace":
"Just as Pope Benedict XV was an emissary of peace, so will Pope Benedict XVI be an emissary of peace. Just as Pope Benedict XV sought peace and spoke of peace and wrote papal documents seeking peace, so will Pope Benedict XVI do also."
what I have found significant is that it now seems that Pope Benedict XVI is starting to see the primary role of his papacy as just that - "an emissary of peace":
Papal benediction for Turkey, The Australian, Martin Chulov, December 02, 2006. AS the Vatican jet turned west towards Rome yesterday, the implications of Benedict XVI's four landmark days on Turkish soil were starting to be seen. The Pope's visit to one of the most populous Muslim states had largely been aimed at patching up sectarian divides within the Christian faith. But it is the ancillary items that are set to take the world stage. Benedict's outreach to a "brotherhood of Muslims" and advocacy of Turkey joining the European Union were well received in this Muslim-majority state, where suspicion of the pontiff had run deep before his visit. The reception was solid enough for Turkey, the ancient bridge of civilisations, again to be quietly touted as the route to heal the so-called clash of civilisations that has taken hold in Europe, the Middle East and Asia during the past five years of the war on terror. For only the second time in the history of the papacy, a pope stood in meditation in an Islamic shrine on Thursday, inside Istanbul's famous Blue Mosque. Alongside an Islamic cleric, he bowed in a deeply symbolic moment for almost one minute before leaving for the domed Haghia Sofia, a church-turned-mosque-turned-museum, across the square. .... Before his visit, Benedict had not been a supporter of Turkey's EU candidacy. Many believed he found it difficult to envisage how an Islamic nation of 70 million people would fit into the Judeo-Christian civilisation of Europe, which he saw as a crucible of the Catholic faith. He also wondered how admission would help repair the split between Catholicism and the Orthodox churches, which parted ways a thousand years ago over disputes about the extent of papal authority. ... As he finished his prayer inside the Blue Mosque, Benedict, standing next to the Mufti of Istanbul, said: "This visit will help us find together the way of peace for the good of all humanity." ...
Hogue, the anti-Catholic thinks that the last Pope will be the end of the Catholic Church but not the end of the world, while Conte, a devout Catholic thinks there could be many more Popes in between Benedict XVI and the last Pope, "Peter the Roman." I can well understand why a Catholic like Conte and a non-Christian like Hogue would find uncongenial the idea that we are only two (or now even one) Popes away from when "the seven-hilled city [Rome] will be destroyed" and "the terrible judge [Christ] will judge the people," respectively.
However, as for me (a Christian but non-Roman Catholic), bearing in mind that I believe that "we are in the final phase of the world's history... characterised by worldwide "anguish", "perplexity" and "terror" from "apprehensive[ness] of what is coming on the world" prior to Jesus' return (Luke 21:24b-28):
Re: The second last Pope? Wed Apr 20, 2005 ... But I also do think that we are in the final phase of the world's history, between the end of Gentile domination of Jerusalem (which happened in 1967) and the return of Jesus, that final phase being characterised by worldwide "anguish", "perplexity" and "terror" from "apprehensive[ness] of what is coming on the world": Luke 21:24b-28 (NIV) "... Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." So I await with interest what the new Pope Benedict XVI will do.
I would not be surprised if it does turn out that Benedict XVI is the second last Pope, the last Pope being one (an Italian?) whose "Christian name will be Peter" but who "will never be called by the name Petrus Romanus (Peter of Rome)" because "There is an ancient unwritten rule in the College of Cardinals that no successor to the first pope will dare use his name" (see also Wikipedia's Pope Peter II):
"The papal prophecy of St. Malachy ends with this Latin 25-word flourish containing some of the most frightening doomsday warnings written by any Catholic seer, be he a medieval saint or a prescient Renaissance forger. One thing is certain about the last pope in this prophecy: he will never be called by the name Petrus Romanus (Peter of Rome). There is an ancient unwritten rule in the College of Cardinals that no successor to the first pope will dare use his name. Malachy prophecy watchers will have to seek other clues. Perhaps his Christian name will be Peter or his family or ecclesiastical armorial bearings will betray some evidence the Apostle whom Christ called `Rocky.' Maybe the last pope's escutcheon will display a stone (a `peter'), or the apostle's fisherman boat or net will be seen. Maybe he will have some important posting at one of a thousand towns or cathedrals named after St. Peter, or he will take on a key post in St. Peter's Basilica itself. The odds are better that his important deeds or the theme of his pontificate are the prophetic concern in this last of the post-Wion mottoes. Perhaps the name `Peter of Rome' signifies that the last pope's life will be similar to that of the first. He is the bishop of Rome at the birth of something new. He is also destined to die a martyr. One could expect the last man to sit upon St. Peter's chair to be a non-Italian just like the first perhaps even born a Jew. One could expect that he would be an apostolic wanderer like his namesake. As Peter, the first bishop of Rome, saw the city destroyed by fire and himself persecuted and martyred, so too could the last bishop of Rome meet his ultimate martyrdom during the final destruction of Rome foreseen by so many Catholic seers - expected around or after the closing second Christian millennium." (Hogue, Ibid., pp.350-351)
It is perhaps significant that, as Wikipedia notes about St Malachy's prophecy, "no number is assigned to Petrus Romanus" so "he and Gloria Olivae [= Pope Benedict XVI] might be one and the same pope"! Or, as has occurred to me, "Peter the Roman" may not be an actual last Pope, but may in fact be "the Apostle Saint Peter," in the sense that a persecuted and decimated Christian Church (including its Roman Catholic wing) passing through the Great Tribulation (which I believe we are now entering) may reunite under the spiritual leadership of "the Apostle Saint Peter" in the New Testament. If so, that would mean that Pope Benedict XVI is the last actual Pope!
However, this is admittedly speculative and time will tell whether or not I am wrong on some or all of this. But one thing I am very mindful of is Jesus' warning in Luke 21:28 to be alert that, "When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near"!
Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
Genesis 18:1-33. 1The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. 2Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground. 3He said, "If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. 4Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. 5Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way-now that you have come to your servant." "Very well," they answered, "do as you say." 6So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. "Quick," he said, "get three seahs of fine flour and knead it and bake some bread." 7Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. 8He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree. 9"Where is your wife Sarah?" they asked him. "There, in the tent," he said. 10Then the LORD said, "I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son." Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, "After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?" 13Then the LORD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh and say, 'Will I really have a child, now that I am old?' 14Is anything too hard for the LORD ? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son." 15Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, "I did not laugh." But he said, "Yes, you did laugh." Abraham Pleads for Sodom 16When the men got up to leave, they looked down toward Sodom, and Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way. 17Then the LORD said, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? 18Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. 19For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him." 20Then the LORD said, "The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous 21that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know." 22The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the LORD. 23Then Abraham approached him and said: "Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? 25Far be it from you to do such a thing-to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?" 26The LORD said, "If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake." 27Then Abraham spoke up again: "Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, 28what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city because of five people?" "If I find forty-five there," he said, "I will not destroy it." 29Once again he spoke to him, "What if only forty are found there?" He said, "For the sake of forty, I will not do it." 30Then he said, "May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?" He answered, "I will not do it if I find thirty there." 31Abraham said, "Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?" He said, "For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it." 32Then he said, "May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?" He answered, "For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it." 33When the LORD had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.