Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Gerald Korson

3/10/2013 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

These prophecies are about as reliable as the Mayan Calendar

We can rest assured that the cardinal-electors won't be giving these so-called "prophecies" as much as a fleeting thought in their deliberations. This forgery didn't sway the conclave in 1595, and it won't be a factor in 2013, either. I'd even be willing to wager on that - if it were not an excommunicable offense.

Malachy was an Irish bishop of the 12th century who allegedly received a revelation and subsequently wrote a series of brief cryptic phrases describing the 112 popes who would succeed the then-current pontiff, Innocent II.

Malachy was an Irish bishop of the 12th century who allegedly received a revelation and subsequently wrote a series of brief cryptic phrases describing the 112 popes who would succeed the then-current pontiff, Innocent II.

Article Highlights

By Gerald Korson

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

3/10/2013 (1 year ago)

Published in Europe

Keywords: Gerald Korson, conclave, papal conclave, Peter the Roman, prophecy of St. Malachy


HUNTINGTON, IN (Catholic Online) - With all the intrigue over the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and the upcoming conclave, there has been a renewed public interest in the so-called Prophecy of St. Malachy.

Surely you've heard of it before. Malachy was an Irish bishop of the 12th century who allegedly received a revelation and subsequently wrote a series of brief cryptic phrases describing the 112 popes who would succeed the then-current pontiff, Innocent II. As luck would have it, the pontiff who is elected in this month's conclave would be the last in the series at No. 112.

But it's really nothing to get worked up about, as credibility is a serious issue here. These prophecies are about as reliable as the Mayan Calendar.

When the Prophecy of St. Malachy was first published by a Benedictine monk in 1595, St. Malachy had been dead already for 447 years. There is no record of anyone ever as much as mentioning the prophecy before that time. Furthermore, the monk, who incorporated the alleged prophecy in his book about the history of the Benedictine order, included notations indicating the names of the 74 "popes" who supposedly fulfilled the first 74 prophecies. That list in itself is erroneous; in several instances, it leaves out legitimate popes in favor of antipopes, those false claimants to the papacy who surfaced at various troubled moments in the history of the Church.

The mysterious phrases of the supposed prophecy - including specimens like "Sign of Ostia," "snaky man," and "the fruit of Jupiter will help" - seem far more explicit and accurate when applied to those 74 popes (and antipopes) who reigned between Innocent II's immediate successor, Celestine II, and the year 1590. After that, the majority of these papal descriptions make little or no sense in relation to the corresponding heirs to the Chair of St. Peter. Usually the attempt is made to connect the prophecy to the pontiff's name, family, place of origin, or symbols on his coat of arms, but it usually takes quite an imagination to make that leap.

The relative accuracy of the papal descriptions leading up to 1590 and the complete lack of historical evidence that the Prophecy of St. Malachy even existed before that time leads most historians to consider it a forgery. The theory goes that the prophecy was conveniently compiled in 1590 in order to influence the papal conclave of that year in favor of Cardinal Girolamo Simoncelli, who as bishop of Orvieto (from a Latin word meaning "old city") would have been a perfect match for the prophecy of Pope No. 75, Ex antiquitate Urbis ("from the old city").

If that was the ruse the forgers had in mind, it didn't work, as the cardinal-electors went for a reluctant candidate named Niccolò Sfondrati, who became Pope Gregory XIV in December 1590 after a two-month conclave. (Interestingly, although he reigned less than a year, one if his first official acts was to forbid, under pain of excommunication, all wagering on papal elections and the duration of pontificates.) Still, St. Malachy fans today rationalize Gregory as a fulfillment of the prophecy, noting that Sfondrati's father was born in Milan, and Milan is an "old city" in its own right. So there.

Consideration of our popes of recent memory illustrates the difficulty even true believers face in making these prophecies stick. "Shepherd and sailor" is said to apply to Pope John XXIII because he hailed from Venice, a port city. "Flower of flowers" is claimed to fit Pope Paul VI because of the fleur-de-lis on his coat of arms. Pope John Paul I, "of the half moon," is said to have been elected on a night when there was a half-moon in the sky. "From the labor of the sun" is a stretch for Pope John Paul II, who came from the East (Poland), from which the sun rises. Pope Benedict XVI is "the glory of the Olive"; the Benedictine order (of which Pope Benedict was never a member) was once known as the Olivetans.

Which brings us to Pope No. 112, "Peter the Roman." Here, St. Malachy and/or the forgers give us a full-blown prophecy:

In the final persecution of the Holy Roman Church, there will sit Peter the Roman, who will pasture his sheep in many tribulations, and when these things are finished, the city of seven hills will be destroyed, and the dreadful judge will judge his people. The End.

Now if only it were that simple. A cursory scan of the list of papal electors reveal several cardinals whose names include Peter, Pierre, or Pedro, all of whom would qualify as "Roman" by the simple fact they are prelates of the Church of Rome. (And if the cardinals were to buy into the Prophecy of St. Malachy but wish to forestall the destruction of Rome - "the city of seven hills" - and the Final Judgment for as long as possible, they might want to consider selecting the youngest and healthiest Peter among them. I'm just sayin'.)

We can rest assured that the cardinal-electors won't be giving these so-called "prophecies" as much as a fleeting thought in their deliberations. This forgery didn't sway the conclave in 1595, and it won't be a factor in 2013, either. I'd even be willing to wager on that - if it were not an excommunicable offense.

-----

Gerald Korson is a career Catholic journalist with more than 30 years' experience as an editor and writer, including nine years as editor of Our Sunday Visitor national newsweekly (1998-2007). In addition to OSV, he has been published in numerous Catholic print and online journals including The Catholic Answer, Lay Witness, This Rock, Columbia, The Catholic Voice, Catholic San Francisco, The Montana Catholic, Extension, Catholic Almanac, Mercatornet, Catholic Pulse, and Catholic Online. He and his wife, the parents of 11 children, make their home in Indiana.

---


Pope Francis calls for your 'Prayer and Action'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women:
That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lord’s invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.



Comments


More Europe

Pope Francis Easter Vigil Homily: Where is My Galilee? Encountering Jesus Watch

Image of Pope Francis: To return to Galilee means above all to return to that blazing light with which God's grace touched me at the start of the journey. From that flame I can light a fire for today and every day, and bring heat and light to my brothers and sisters. That flame ignites a humble joy, a joy which sorrow and distress cannot dismay, a good, gentle joy.

By Pope Francis

Galilee is the place where they were first called, where everything began! To return there, to return to the place where they were originally called. Jesus had walked along the shores of the lake as the fishermen were casting their nets. He had called them, and ... continue reading


LOCH NESS MONSTER - FOUND? Amazing new photos appear Watch

Image of Cutting-edge technology may have just added credence to a long-standing legend in Scotland's Loch Ness.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Cutting-edge technology may have just added credence to a long-standing legend in Scotland's Loch Ness. A satellite orbiting Earth and using Apple's satellite map app may have provided proof that there's a Nessie to be found in the Scottish Highlands. The ... continue reading


UFO caught on film in England, but it's not a spacecraft... Watch

Image of This mysterious ring lasted for about three minutes in the air before dissipating, according to the eyewitness.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A bizarre black ring is baffling experts in England, after it was filmed by a sixteen year old girl in Warwickshire. The ring apparently hung in the sky for three minutes before dissipating. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Nick Pope, a former adviser to the ... continue reading


Russia continues to devour Ukraine Watch

Image of Russia's Prime Minister, and former president of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev said that Ukraine is on the brink of civil war.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Vladimir Putin has continued his land grab in Ukraine, making it ever more apparent that the Russian president wants to reunite the old Soviet republics and from a new Soviet Union, even at the risk of causing a major war. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Russia ... continue reading


Immune to poison, GIANT rats terrify Great Britain Watch

Image of Nationwide, councils have reported a rise in the number of rats being reported. Birmingham has the highest number of call-outs with 5,100 in the past year.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

"Rats -- the size of cats" is a lyric in David Bowie's classic rock hymn "Diamond Dogs." It's a terrifying, dystopian vision that unfortunately coming true in Great Britain today, with rodents as large as two feet in length. Even worse, these monster rats have ... continue reading


Pope appoints Lady Margaret Scotford Archer to head Pontifical Academy Watch

Image of Lady Margaret Scotford Archer was born in Grenoside, U.K., and holds a Ph.D. from the University of London. She is currently a professor at l'Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland. She previously taught for many years at the University of Warwick in Great Britain.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Lady Margaret Scotford Archer has been appointed by Pope Francis to be President of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences." The group consists of scholars dedicated to studying issues in the social sciences in order to offer reflection and advice to the ... continue reading


Dissenting Priest Defies Church of England's Teaching on Marriage, 'Marries' his Homosexual Paramour Watch

Image of An Anglican priest has defied the Church of England's insistence that marriage is between one man and one woman by openly dissenting from the Scripture and Christian tradition and wedding his longtime homosexual companion. The 58-year-old Canon Jeremy Pemberton, a divorced hospital chaplain, wed 51-year-old Laurence Cunnington this past weekend.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A practicing homosexual priest has defied the Church of England's ban on homosexual and lesbian clergy marrying by wedding his longtime male homosexual companion. The 58-year-old Canon Jeremy Pemberton, a divorced hospital chaplain, wed his long-term homosexual ... continue reading


Who Am I? Homily of Pope Francis on the Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion Watch

Image of

By Pope Francis

This week begins with the festive procession with olive branches: all the people welcome Jesus. The children, the young people sing, praising Jesus.But this week proceeds into the mystery of Jesus' death and his resurrection. We've heard the Passion of the Lord. ... continue reading


Pope Francis Gives Away New Testaments to the Faithful. Calls Catholics to Love the Bible Watch

Image of Pope Francis loves the Word of God and calls us to do the same

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Last month, at an Angelus prayer, Pope Francis asked the crowd how many of them read the Bible every day. The response was discouraging. He told them, "It is good to have a little Bible that you carry with you in your pocket or in your bag. Always carry a Bible ... continue reading


The Gift of Wisdom: Pope Francis Begins Series of Talks on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit Watch

Image of

By Pope Francis

Today we begin a series of reflections on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the soul, the lifeblood of the Church and of every Christian: He is God's Love, who makes our hearts his home and enters into communion with us. The Holy Spirit is always ... continue reading


All Europe News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Genesis 1:1--2:2
1 In the beginning God created heaven and ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 16:5, 8, 9-10, 11
5 My birthright, my cup is Yahweh; you, you alone, ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 28:1-10
1 After the Sabbath, and towards dawn on the first ... Read More

Reading 2, Genesis 22:1-18
1 It happened some time later that God put Abraham to ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for April 19th, 2014 Image

St. Alphege
April 19: Archbishop and "the First Martyr of Canterbury." He was born in ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter