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Popes and Prophecy | By Sandra Miesel | Monday, April 18, 2005
When the Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church convene today to elect a
new pope, clouds of prophecy will swirl around their deliberations, for
popes and prophecy go together like mountains and mist.
The earliest papal prophecy was delivered by Jesus himself on the last night
of his earthly life. He predicted that St. Peter--whom Catholics count as
the first pope-- would betray him "before the cock crows." (Matthew 26:34)
Later, after the Resurrection, Jesus also foretells martyrdom for St. Peter,
led in old age "where you do not want to go." (John 21:8)
Bible prophecies are the only kind that Christians must believe because
they are part of public revelation. But the Catholic Church also recognizes
that God may favor certain persons with the gifts of prophecy or other mystical
phenomena. These private revelations can add nothing to the Faith and belief
in them is optional. (Some can enrich our appreciation of doctrines that
already exist, such as the visions of St. Faustina Kowalska on the Divine
Mercy.) Nevertheless, in recent decades millions of people have spent billions
of dollars chasing reports of visions and prophecies. Only a tiny fraction
of those reported gain official Church recognition, the apparitions of the
Virgin Mary at Lourdes and Fatima being the most famous.
Catholic private revelations about popes are usually set within End Times
prophecies. Typically these bewail the condition of Church and State alike,
foreseeing horrible chastisements unless the world repents. One recently
introduced concept is the Three Days of Darkness, during which demons will
carry all the wicked off to hell as a sort of inverted Rapture. But whether
medieval or modern, these prophecies carry political baggage from the eras
in which they are made such as anxiety about European rulers, secret societies,
and a climactic "Birch Tree Battle" in Westphalia, Germany.
In the prophesied time of tribulation marked by wars and unprecedented natural
disasters, the Church will endure worldwide persecution. The pope will "have
much to suffer," harassed by outsiders and surrounded by staff made up of
secret traitors. Eventually he will be forced to flee Rome over the bodies
of his cardinals and meet. a cruel death in exile. The Church will be left
leaderless for many months while three anti-popes contend for power in what
Bl. Anna Katharina Emmerich called a "false Church" with invalid sacraments.
Finally, Sts. Peter and Paul will come down from heaven and chose a legitimate
pontiff. He will be known as the Angelic Pope. Together with the Last Emperor
or Great Monarch, a descendant of Charlemagne and St. Louis, the Angelic
Pope will usher in a period of world peace. There may even be a series of
five Angelic Popes, but eventually the world will drift back to sin and
disorder. Then the Antichrist will appear and the world ends according to
the Bibles Book of Revelation.
Personal predictions about popes are found in the Prophecies of St. Malachy,
a series of cryptic phrases attributed to a twelfth century Irish bishop
that were first published in 1590. But these prophecies look like a hoax
because they are accurate only before the 1590 cutoff date. Nevertheless,
some people still scrabble for interpretations that make modern popes fit
St. Malachys words. Pope John Paul II was "from the labor of the sun"
because he was born and buried during a partial eclipse. His successor is
supposed to be "the glory of the olive" followed by the final pope, "Peter
John Paul II was also supposed to be the "spark" from Poland predicted by
St. Faustina, whom he canonized. False prophecies had him dying in 1994
or being violently removed from office by 1995 at the latest. Although the
pope survived, an assassination attempt in 1981 has been read as fulfilling
the Third Secret of Fatima. That prophecy, released in 2000, foresees a
"Bishop in White" shot to death by enemies of the Church. The Fatima Secret
at very least symbolizes the religious persecutions suffered during the
twentieth century and proclaims the need for penance to avert more horror.
But Popes Radical Traditionalist critics reject this text. They claim
that the "true" Third Secret has been hidden because it predicts mass apostasy
and the election of a diabolical Freemason as the next pope, followed by
the imposition of a false One World Religion. Trusting the spurious Secret
of LaSalette, they are sure that "Rome will lose the faith and become the
seat of Antichrist." Whoever is elected pope, be he ever so orthodox and
holy, there are Catholics who expect him to become the Prophet of Antichrist.
After all, some of these rigorists think that every pope since Pius XII
was a heretic.
If comfort is required from private revelation, consider the famous prophetic
dream of St. John Bosco in which the Church is a ship attacked by a fleet
of enemies. The pope as captain dies in the bombardment but another pope
takes his place. He steers the Bark of Peter to safe anchorage between two
pillars representing Jesus in the Eucharist and the Blessed Virginthe
spot where it will always survive the forces of Hell.
Sandra Miesel is the co-author of the best selling The
Da Vinci Hoax: Exposing
the Errors in The Da Vinci Code. She holds masters degrees
in biochemistry and medieval history from the University of Illinois.
Since 1983, she has written hundreds of articles for the Catholic press,
chiefly on history, art, and hagiography. She regularly appears in Crisis
magazine and is a columnist for the diocesan paper of Norwich, Connecticut.
Sandra has spoken at religious and academic conferences, appeared on EWTN,
and given numerous radio interviews.
Outside the Catholic sphere, she has also written, analyzed, and edited
fiction. Sandra and her husband John have raised three children.
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