Monday, October 19, 2015

The Prophecies of Malachy and Pope Francis

The Prophecies of Malachi were first published in the year AD 1595 by a Benedictine monk named Arnold Wion. The prophecies are a series of 112 short Latin phrases claiming to predict some characteristics of the Popes of Rome.

Wion attributed these prophecies to St. Malachy, an Irish archbishop from the 12th century.

There are people who genuinely believe these prophecies are authentic and they have put considerable effort into determining how the various prophecies line up with the popes they are supposed to represent.

On the other hand, there are those who believe the Prophecies of Malachi to be a forgery produced basically at the time it was first published. And, by the way, that is the official opinion of the Roman Catholic Church on this matter.

The strongest evidence for them being a forgery is that the prophecies are very accurate up to the year they appeared, 1595, and then very vague and cryptic after that point.

A survey of just a few of the most recent predictions shows how some of the descriptions are intriguing, others seem far fetched and contrived.

As an example, number 109 reads, "of the half moon" (de medietate lunae). This corresponds to Pope John Paul I, who was pope for only one month. The mention of a moon at all for a pope who served one month is intriguing.

Number 104 reads "religion destroyed" (religio depopulata). This corresponds to Benedict XV, who was pope during world war 1 and the russian revolution, which led to serious persecution of the church during communist rule. Again, intriguing.

But number 111, "the glory of the olive" (Gloria Olivae), is supposed to correspond to Benedict XVI. And there is no compelling way to line this up with Joseph Ratzinger at all.

What makes these prophecies urgent and timely is that we are currently in the reign of the last pope theoretically predicted by these prophecies.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am going to state that I believe the Prophecies of Malachi were indeed a 16th century forgery and that any apparent similarity between the predictions and the popes they represent is pure coincidence.

It looks to me like this person tried to extrapolate the rest of the popes into the future, maybe assuming the end of the world would happen in the year 2000. He came close, the final pope on his list was elected in 2013.

But for those who really want to believe in these prophecies, I would suggest one could accept that the list was composed by a person with some agenda in 1595, but that doesn't mean that God couldn't provide some occasional flashes of inspiration into that forger's work. Maybe just enough to make the list be occasionally intriguing, while not being reliably predictive.

And that brings us to the last pope on the list. After prediction 111, Glory of the Olive, which supposedly represents Pope Benedict XVI, the Prophecies of Malachi read as follows.

In an extreme persecution of the Holy Roman Church, there will sit.
Peter the Roman, who will pasture his sheep in many tribulations. And when these things have transpired, the City of the Seven Hills will be destroyed, and the fearful judge will judge his people. The End.

(In persecutione extrema S.R.E. sedebit. Petrus Romanus, qui pascet oves in multis tribulationibus, quibus transactis civitas septicollis diruetur, & judex tremedus judicabit populum suum. Finis. )

Some suggest that the list could be interpreted as allowing other unmentioned popes prior to the final Pope, called Peter the Roman. But that's not the likely conclusion.

So this Peter the Roman supposedly corresponds to Pope Francis. Now let me tell you what's going to happen in the next number of years. Rome is not going to be destroyed. and I pray that Pope Francis lives a long and productive life.

I actually pray that after he has accomplished everything he feels called by God to do, that he, like his predecessor, can retire and spend his twilight years in peace and enjoy well deserved leisure.

And when he is no longer Pope, the Church of Rome will elect another Bishop for itself. And when that happens, will the Prophecies of Malachy be finally proven false?

I've already told you my opinion of these Prophecies, but for those who want to believe them, let me suggest an interpretation of the final prophecy that could still reconcile them with our reality.

Last week, while speaking at a ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Synod of Bishops, Pope Francis called for a radical decentralization of the Roman Catholic Church. He described how being a "Synodal Church" would involve re-envisioning the exercise of the papacy, and this would have implications for the relations of the Catholic Church with other Churches.

If he puts this vision into practice, and I pray he does, he will be, in some respects, the last Pope of Rome. By which I mean that he would become the last Pope elected under an understanding of the papacy that was the belief when that forger made these prophecies in 1595.

Pope Francis, Peter the Roman. He is of Italian descent, but grew up in Argentina. That's sure Roman enough in my book. Peter. If he redefines the papacy and heals a thousand year schism with the Orthodox Church, he will indeed be exercising that ministry Our Lord gave to Peter, Strengthen your brothers. (Luke 22:32)

And the fearful judge will judge his people and judge them favorably that once again, they are unified.

If that actually happens, and I pray it does, I may yet end up believing that God shared with us a glimpse into the future through a 16th century forgery.