Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Benedict XVI and the Prophecy of Petrus Romanus: Is the Last Pope Here?

by Marianna Bartold

On Monday, February 11, 2013, Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation of the papacy. Starting in the morning, I received phone calls and texts (all of them from people who were surprised, some shocked, and some feeling panicked), asking if I had heard the news, what could have happened, and did this mean Petrus Romanus is here – could he be the next pope? As we discussed these questions, the media outlets were furiously buzzing, and those to whom I spoke or wrote expressed a sense of wonder when I added one consideration that I’ve yet to see deliberated even in the Catholic media: Benedict XVI was the only pope to ascend the throne of stewardship in the Catholic City already possessing full knowledge of the Third Secret of Fatima. 

That is why I mentioned on Facebook the Third Secret of Fatima in conjunction with Pope Benedict XVI's announcement to resign , adding, “Let's ponder that *fact* today.” ---- “Let's all remember that this is not the time to panic. It *is* the time to pray and sacrifice that God's will is accomplished in the upcoming papal election.” ---“Pray for this pope and also pray to God that, undeserving as we are, the Church is finally given the Pope who will fully comply with Our Lady's commands at Fatima.

As fellow Catholics expressed a variety of emotions, I found myself repeating to them something else I also wrote on Facebook: “Let's turn to the Mother of God and remember that the Church always will exist, no matter how hard-pressed, and that Stewards (the popes) of the Catholic City play their part for the time they must.” Later in the day, another Catholic writer seemed to echo a view similar to mine, writing: “The papacy is not a mere person, it is not a great man, it is certainly not a bloodline or earthly principality. It is the ministry of the Bishop of Rome, Successor of St. Peter. It is a sacred office entrusted to the entire Church. It is an enduring stewardship through time. Behind the Vicar stand the Kingship of Christ and the enduring nature of His Church, yesterday, today, and forever.”[1]

Meanwhile, inquiries seem to persist about Petrus Romanus - a touchy subject sure to elicit a variety of reactions. Among Catholics who are even aware of the (alleged) St. Malachy prophesies of popes, the main reactions seem to be belief, disbelief, or total indifference. (There’s also a somewhat ambiguous group who excuse their disinterest by stating that Christ said no one knows the day or hour of the last day, except God the Father. What they forget is that Christ also provided certain signs of the beginning of the last days, and this He did for the good of souls.) 

What is even stranger is the reaction of various Protestant sects. Especially in the last few years, vehemently anti-Catholic “religious groups” who consider themselves “Christians” are having a veritable field day with the Petrus Romanus prophecy. (This, although they reject Christ’s true Church, reject her saints, and only accept biblical prophecy -from a severely edited Bible, which they interpret privately, pretending their own views are inspirations from the Holy Ghost. These poor souls don’t realize the breadth and width to which they are tragically deceived.)

My personal view, objectively based on currently-available facts, is that it is possible St. Malachy did write the prophecies, that it is possible that they were put away for safe-keeping and, in the vast Vatican archives, it is possible the Malachy prophecies were for centuries overlooked. It is just as possible that they were later edited or even (alas) seriously tinkered with. 

I find the prophecies and the pro-and-con arguments regarding their validity to be intriguing. That means I don’t subscribe to any of the theories that they are absolutely and without question the work of St. Malachy (more on that later), or that they are absolutely a pious forgery. It also means that I firmly reject and repudiate the particularly malicious and absurd “Christian” speculation (i.e., from Protestants who claim to be Christians) that the prophecies were purposely written due to an evil “scheme” of the “papist” Church. (If you’re a Catholic reading this, please take a moment to pull down your eyebrows from the ceiling and pull up your jaw from the floor.) The sophistries (meaning “false reasoning”) involved to reach the latter, nefarious conclusion are (literally) devilishly clever imitations of reason to anyone who confuses reason with rationalism. They might even be amusing, if the growing number of “Christians” who subscribe to it were not seriously duped but deadly serious.

St. Malachy and the Papal Prophecies: A Brief History
Since 1941, the three main Catholic books on prophecy, which include some part of the St. Malachy “list of popes,”  are the following:  The Prophets and Our Times (Rev. R. Gerald Culleton), Catholic Prophecy (Yves DuPont), and Prophecy for Today  (Edward O’Connor). They are not included in the more recent (1996) title Trial, Tribulation, and Triumph (Desmond A. Birch), since the author stated in a footnote that there was sufficient evidence of “interpolation” [meaning interruption] in the papal list.

According to Edward O’Connor (mentioned above): “Few private prophecies have captured the popular imagination like the 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 this day.”
O’Connor continues: “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 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 of 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. Here are some in detail:

--“Clement XIII (reigned 1758-1769) is described as Rosa Umbriae (‘The Rose of Umbria’). This pontiff had been governor of Rieti in Umbria, and the symbol of that district was a rose.”
--“His successor, Clement XVI (1769-1774) appears as Ursus Velox (‘The Nimble Bear’). His coat of arms showed a bear in flight.”
--“The next pontiff, Pius VI (1775-1774) is described as Peregrinus Apostolicus (‘The Apostolic Wanderer’). During his reign, this pope went to Germany to confer with the Emperor Joseph II. In the last years of his pontificate, he was forced by revolutionaries to flee Rome. After an arduous journey over the Alps, he died in Valence, France.”
--“His successor was Pius VII (1800-1823), and he appears on Malachy’s list as Aquila Rapax (‘The Rapacious Eagle). Since this pope was the most gentle and dove-like of men, the inscription has presented difficulties which some have tried to circumvent by applying the prophecy to Napoleon at whose hands Pius suffered much.”
--The prophecy of Gregory XVI (1831)-1846) reads De Bailneis Etruriae (‘From Bainea in Etruria.’) This pontiff belonged to the religious order of Camaloli, whose seat is at Balnea in Etruria.”
--“Coming to the [latter] popes of the [19th] century, Pius IX (1846-1878) is Crux de Cruce (‘Cross from a Cross’).  The House of Savoy, which caused this pope so much suffering, had a cross on its coat of arms.”
--“Leo XIII (1878-1903): Lumen in Caelo (“Light in the Heavens’). His coat of arms showed a shooting star.”
--“Pius X (1903-1914): Ignis Ardens (‘Burning Fire’).”
--“Benedict XV (1914-1922): Pope of the first World War: Religio Depopulata (‘Religion Devastated’).”
--“Pius XI (1922-1939): Fides Intrepida (‘Intrepid Faith’).”
--“Pius XII (1939-1958): Pastor Angelicus (‘The Angelic Shepherd’).”
--“John XXIII (1958-1963): Pastor et Nauta (‘The Shepherd and Sailor’). Since he was formaly Patriarch of Venice, this pontiff came from a city of canals.”
--Paul VI (1963-1978): Flos Florum (‘The Flower of Flowers’). His coat of arms displayed the fleur-de-lis.”
--John Paul I (1978-1978): De Medietate Lunae (‘From the Half of the Moon’). The first two letters of his family, Luciani, form half of ‘luna,’ the Latin word for ‘moon.’”
--John Paul II (1978-_____): De Labore Solis (‘From the Labor of the Sun’).” [Please Note: at the time O’Connor wrote his book on Catholic prophecy, John Paul II was still alive, and I am quoting his book verbatim.]
“Only two more popes remain on Malachy’s list:
--De Gloria Olivae (‘From the Glory of the Olive’) and Petrus Romanus (‘Peter the Roman’).

If this list is correct, it means that the current pope, Benedict XVI, is “the glory of the olive” and the next pope is Petrus Romanus, or “Peter the Roman.”

To continue with Mr. O’Connor’s observations, “Mention might also be made of the Monk of Padua who in 1740 added his own observations to the prophecies of Malachy, even indicating which name each future pope would take. In this regard he was correct until Benedict XV who, according to the Monk, was to be Paul VI.” From that point, there were subsequent errors, which means beginning in the early 20th century, the list of predicted popes described in the Malachy prophecies may have been edited, toyed, re-interpreted, or moved around - that is, if the saint wrote any part of them.

O’Connor concluded: “A study of the entire prophecy shows that fulfillment is made possible only by including anti-popes - almost a death blow to the integrity of the prophecy since Malachy’s vision of all popes of the future could hardly have included those were not to be pope at all, and Innocent II would have derived much ‘comfort’ from a prophecy involving ten anti-popes. We are also presented with the unique problem of John XXIII appearing twice on Malachy’s list: No. 50. ‘Stag of the Siren’ and No 107, ‘Shepherd and Sailor.’”
While mentally digesting that information, there exists the counter-argument that the interpretations of these prophecies are simply off the mark. None of the commentaries I’ve so far seen identify who these anti-popes could be. That is because, for many reasons, there are disagreements on the exact number of anti-popes. To clarify:

Anti-pope means a pretended pope. The anti-popes were men who by the aid of faithless Christians or others unlawfully seized and claimed the papal power while the lawful pope was in prison or exile. (Baltimore Catechism #3, Q&A: Regarding Anti-Popes, 1891)

Since the second century, the list of anti-popes ranges from a total of 37 to 42. However, if we began to remove a subjective number of alleged anti-popes (starting in 1139 A.D., the year St. Malachy allegedly wrote the papal prophecy list), then what? It would mean that, while we cannot be sure of the number of anti-popes, there is enough lee-way to ascertain that we have not yet arrived to the prophesied reign of Petrus Romanus.

Is it possible that anti-popes do appear on the list (but who are not yet investigated by the Church and definitively judged to be anti-popes)?  After all, only a true pope (following an anti-pope) or a valid Church council can make that judgment. So how would Pope Innocent II know simply by reading the list which popes of the future were true Sovereign Pontiffs and which were not? The bottom line is that we simply cannot know if all of these interpretations of St. Malachy’s list are “on the mark.” For example, O’Connor doesn’t explain why “Stag of the Siren” fits John XXIII (especially since John XXIII was a 20th century pope; he did not reign between 1410-1415, as O’Connor’s list shows as the first time that pope appears on the list. Perhaps "XXIII" was a misprint?) Without any hint of explanation, I can find no reasoning which supports the allusion that John XXIII twice appears on the papal list.

Or we could remove John XXXIII from fitting one of the two supposed spots and then move each pope one slot up on the list. If that is the case, the last two popes before Benedict XVI were “Flowers of Flowers” (Pope John Paul I, who died within a month of becoming pope, dying in the flower of his onset to the papacy) and “From the Half of the Moon” (Pope John Paul II). One could just as easily fit circumstances during John Paul II's pontificate to the alleged Malachy description.
Whatever we may think of the St. Malachy prophecies, I do want to add one thing. When objectively considering the alleged prophecy of Petrus Romanus, he is not an anti-pope or the anti-Christ (as a great number outside of the Church claim).

So let’s look at the prophecy of Petrus Romanus itself. This is the older version, as provided by Fr. Culleton in 1941:

“During the last persecution of the Holy Roman Church, there will sit upon the throne Peter the Roman, who will feed the sheep amid great tribulations, and when these are passed, the City of the Seven Hills will be utterly destroyed, and the awful Judge will then judge the people.”

There are important differences to the version above and a modernized version, which states: “In extreme persecution, the seat of the Holy Roman Church will be occupied by Peter the Roman, who will feed the sheep through many tribulations, at the term of which the city of seven hills will be destroyed, and the formidable Judge will judge his people. The End.”

The largest contrast is the time of persecution. The first version says Petrus Romanus will reign during the "last persecution" of the Church" (which is a particular time frame, already prophesied in the Holy Scriptures) while the second version only says he will rule "in extreme persecution" (the Church has always been persecuted, but these words do not necessarily indicate the "last persecution"). So even here, we have evidence of  possible “tinkering," according to someone's past interpretation! For that reason, I’ll address only Fr. Culleton’s earlier rendition.

--“During the last persecution of the Holy Roman Church” – this aligns with the Holy Bible, which does foretell the “last” things, the last great battle between the earthly kingdom of God (which is the Roman Catholic Church) and the Dragon, who gives his power to the Anti-Christ and his precursor (an anti-St. John the Baptist).
--“Peter”: Viewing the prophecy objectively, it does not prove that an alleged future pope’s baptismal name will be Peter or that he will choose Peter as his papal name. Since the martyrdom of the first pope (St. Peter), none of his successors have taken his name. Rather, it could mean that, like St. Peter who was appointed by Jesus Christ as the rock upon “which I will build my church” (meaning one church, not many assemblies claiming to be a part of Christ’s church), the pope who fits this prophecy will lead Christ’s very small flock through many persecutions. (Such a scenario also fits the Third Secret of Fatima vision.)
--“the Roman” could mean he is a traditional Catholic in the old and best sense of the word. It also could mean that he will be an Italian from the region of Rome. It is possible he is called “the Roman” after a succession of non-Italian popes.
--“the sheep”: an allusion to Christ’s flock. Still, it is interesting that the term “sheep” is used, and not “flock.” Neither are “lambs” mentioned.  The allusion to sheep could refer to well-catechized Catholics from all walks of life, but they, too, need an earthly shepherd to keep them safe from spiritual harm. That office (with all of its duties, responsibilities, and rights) was rendered to Peter and all of his successors.  After the Resurrection of Our Lord, thrice did He ask a question of Peter, as St. John the Evangelist relates in his Gospel:  

When therefore they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter: Simon son of John, lovest thou me more than these? He saith to him: Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs. He saith to him again: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? He saith to him: Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs. He said to him the third time: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved, because he had said to him the third time: Lovest thou me? And he said to him: Lord, thou knowest all things: thou knowest that I love thee. He said to him: Feed my sheep.” (John 21: 15-17, The Holy Bible, Douay-Rheims translation)

--“the city of seven hills” – Most definitely the Roman Catholic Church, which “sits” on the “seven hills of Rome.” Rome became the earthly center of Christ’s Church for many reasons. St. Peter, the first pope, was martyred there. He was in Rome to succor the first Christians, to succor Christ’s sheep, who were suffering extreme persecution and martyrdom. Due to the Latin language (the common language at the time), Christianity was further spread throughout all of Rome’s territories. God over-turned pagan Rome and made it Catholic Rome, Christian Rome.

As for the rest of the alleged prophecy, it is clear enough. It is true that, in the end times, the world and the material universe will be destroyed. After all, Our Lord did say, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my word shall not pass away.” (Luke 21:33)

Now, as you may remember, I began this article and referred to the fact that Pope Benedict XVI already had the knowledge of the Third Secret of Fatima when he became the Pope. Might that have anything to do with his decision to abdicate? That is a subject to later address.


[1] William Fahey, “The Reason Benedict Resigned,” Crisis Magazine [http://www.crisismagazine.com/2013/the-reason-benedict-resigned]

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