In checking out the predictions for last year, I came across a post I wrote with this lede:
More doomsday predictions, this time from the Roman Catholic side! According to writings attributed to St. Malachy in 1139, pope #112 will be the last one, and then Jesus will return. That would be the successor to Pope Benedict XVI, who is #111.
And now we have #112, the Person of the Year who has made Catholicism cool again, Pope Francis. But will he be the last of the line? After the jump, the story I quoted back in February, 2013.
Just when you thought it was safe to go out of the bunker, there’s a fresh wave of doomsday buzz over a purported 12th-century prophecy suggesting that the next pope will be the last pope before the end of the world. St. Malachy’s “Prophecy of the Popes” has no credence in the Roman Catholic Church, but its effect could well be longer-lasting than the hype that surrounded the 2012 Maya apocalypse — especially if the papal conclave goes with one of the favored candidates for Benedict XVI’s successor.
The text that’s been attributed to Malachy came to light in 1595, in a book by Benedictine monk Arnold de Wyon. Supposedly, Malachy experienced a vision of future popes during a trip to Rome in 1139, and wrote down a series of 112 cryptic phrases that described each pope in turn. The text was said to have lain unnoticed in Rome’s archives until Wyon published it.
Doomsday fans have found ways to link each phrase to a corresponding pope through the centuries. That includes John Paul II, who is associated with phrase No. 110, “From the labor of the sun,” because he was born on the day of a solar eclipse and was entombed on the day of a solar eclipse as well. Benedict XVI, No. 111, is supposedly “glory of the olive” because some members of a branch of the monastic order founded by St. Benedict are known as Olivetans.
Then there’s No. 112: “In the extreme persecution of the Holy Roman Church, there will sit … Peter the Roman, who will nourish the sheep in many tribulations; when they are finished, the city of seven hills will be destroyed, and the dreadful judge will judge his people. The end.”
The end? This could be the beginning for a doomsday meme that hangs over a whole generation, if it’s taken seriously. There’s already a 586-page book about the coming apocalypse, titled “Petrus Romanus.” One theologian, Michael K. Lake, is quoted as saying that “Catholic and evangelical scholars have dreaded this moment for centuries.”