Prophecies or doomsday scenarios have been laden throughout history by civilisations and prophets, the most famous of these arguably Nostradamus. Prophecies usually give us a feeling of dread and fear, while other make us laugh and we write them off as fantasy. Many categorise the prophecies of St. Malachy in that second group as nonsense. A grand old tale made to humour us. So, the question beckons, what is the tale of St. Malachy?
In 1139-40, Malachy travelled to Rome where he petitioned Pope Innocent II for ‘pallia’ for the episcopal see of Armagh and was subsequently appointed legate for Ireland. Malachy and his monks had then set out to return to Ireland, but before doing so they mounted Janiculum Hill to pray in thanksgiving of their pilgrimage to Rome, where Malachy had a vision or dream. As he went into what may have been sleep, a trance or a dream like state his lips moved uttering phrase after phrase in latin. A scribe at hand recorded this amazing moment onto yellow parchment and at the end had cast 112 latin phrases. (A record of his visit atop of Janiculum does exist, but not of his visions).
Malachy, upon awakening from his dream, explained that God had given him a list of every pope that would reign until the end of days when we would all be thereafter judged by him. These 112 latin phrases were then given to Pope Innocent II, who supposedly tucked them away for ‘safe keeping’ in the Vatican archives. There, they remained forgotten for over 450 years, until they were miraculously rediscovered by Benedictine monk Arnold de Wyon. He inserted the prophecies into his famous Catholic history ‘Lignum Vitae’ in 1595.
This authors first encounter with this story was around fifteen years ago in a book called ‘The Last Pope: The Decline and Fall of the Church of Rome’ by John Hogue, 1998. Hogue, revisited the issue again in 2007 after the death of John Paul II in his ebook The Last Pope “Revistited” Apart from Hogue’s books, the volume of other books about the prophecies seems few and far between. The general restraint on this matter indicates a ‘conspiracy of silence’ amongst most writers, scholars and theologians. They are all of the opinion that the prophecies are false, forged for gain by it publisher Arnold de Wyon.
Beginning with the Jesuits at the end of the 16th Century, they were the prophecies harshest critics. These priest acted as papal ‘operatives’ or ‘secret police’ launching stinging attacks on anyone who tried to promote the prophecies as ‘the word of God’. Continuing on from the Jesuits, reputable church historians and clerics in the 18th century continued to rebuke the prophecies claim moving St.Malachy conveniently into the background. John Hogue, considered a world authority on Nostradamus and millennium predictions, tends to agree by pointing out that he has “never encounted a more diligent board of censors for its prophets than that of the Roman Catholic Church. You will not find St.Malachy on the bookshelves of Church-run bookstores.” (The Last Pope, pg.4) So, it is surely safe to say that the only time St.Malachy is ever brought up nowadays, and not necessarily by Church groups, is only by newspapers, online groups and conspiracy theorists whenever a new Pope is elected?
Lets pause anyway for a moment to consider what if St.Malachy’s is correct ? Where does that leave the ‘end of days’ scenario for the church ? For importantly where do we stand on the issue today in 2013 ? According to the prophecies the last two Popes would be Gloria olivae (glory of the olive) and Petrus Romanus (Peter the Roman). The recently retired Benedict XVI fits the prophecies perfectly as the next to last pope, his papal name chosen after the Benedictine Order, which has a branch called ‘the Olivetans’. That conveniently then leaves the current Pontiff Pope Francis as the last Pope of the Roman Catholic Church.
But with the final words to the prophecy of St.Malachy being so despairingly doom-laden and calling for Peter the Roman, Pope Francis isn’t Peter? Does that still mean Pope Francis will be the last pope or can it also be interpreted that the line of Popes wont end until there is a Peter? One thing for sure is that, there is an unwritten rule amongst the College of Cardinals that no successor is to ever use the name of Peter. Is it out of respect or an attempt to avoid the end of the Catholic Church?
Nevertheless, assuming Pope Francis is the last Pope, how will the ‘end of days’ come about. There are the usual scenarios of ‘flames falling from the skies’, natural disasters and another world war, which leads to ‘the city of seven hills’ (Rome) being destroyed. Even our old friend Nostradamus gets to have his say predicting that the last pope will flee Rome in December when ‘two suns’ in the sky appear as a possibly catalyst for disaster. The ‘two suns’ might be a reference to the Comet Ison appearing closest to the sun in late November this year. Anyway, with the never-ending interpretations of doomsday and the last Pope circulating around, what do we do if it doesn’t eventuate? Breath easy and wait for the next big predictions, I say!
Photo Credits: The header image is a statue of St. Malachy. The comets and doomsday image is a woodcut showing the destructive influence of a fourth century comet from Stanilaus Lubienietski’s Theatrum Cometicum (Amsterdam, 1668). Courtesy of NASA/JPL.