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Although a Roman Catholic pope had not stepped down in nearly 600 years, the startling resignation of Pope Benedict XVI was predicted by the co-authors of a book published last spring about a medieval prophecy that the next pontiff will be the last.
In “Petrus Romanus: The Final Pope is Here,” co-authors Tom Horn and Cris Putnam examine St. Malachy’s “Prophecy of the Popes,” said to be based on his prophetic vision of the next 112 popes, beginning with Pope Celestine II, who died in 1144. Malachy presented a description of each pope, culminating with the “final pope,” “Peter the Roman,” whose reign would end with the destruction of Rome and judgment.
Horn explained to WND in an interview today that his conclusion Benedict would resign rather than die in the papacy was based not only on St. Malachy but also on a host of historical and current information.
“We took ‘The Prophecy of the Popes,’ we took what was happening in Italian media, and we determined, based on a great deal of information, that Pope Benedict would likely step down, citing health reasons, in 2012 or 2013,” he said.
St. Malachy was an Irish saint and the archbishop of Armagh, who lived from 1094 to 1l48. Malacy described the penultimate pope, which Horn believes is Benedict, as “Gloria Olivae,” or “Glory of the Olive.”
Pope Benedict XVI was not a Benedictine priest, yet he chose the name of Benedict, the founder of the Order of Saint Benedict, which also is known as the Olivetans
The symbol of the Benedictine order includes an olive branch.
Benedict, speaking Monday morning in Latin to a small gathering of cardinals at the Vatican, said that after examining his conscience “before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise” of leading the Roman Catholic Church.
Peter the Roman
Horn and Putnam discuss the evidence pointing to a Benedict resignation on pages 74 and 486 of their April 2012 book, and Horn has made the prediction on a number of radio programs in recent months, including Jan. 13.
Malachy described the last Pope as “Petrus Romanus,” or “Peter the Roman,” writing: “In the final persecution of the Holy Roman Church there will reign Peter the Roman, who will feed his flock among many tribulations; after which the seven-hilled city will be destroyed and the dreadful Judge will judge the people.”
Horn and his co-author have created their own list of 10 candidates to succeed Benedict and become “Peter the Roman.”
Interestingly, a leading candidate is Cardinal Tarcisio Pietro Evasio Bertone, the Cardinal secretary of state, who was born in Romano, Italy. His name could, therefore, be rendered Peter the Roman.
Another Peter on the list is a black African, Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, the current president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
In any case, Horn noted, Catholics believe the pope inhabits the “Petrine office” as a successor of the apostle Peter.
Other candidates on Horn’s list are Francis Arinze, Angelo Scola, Gianfranco Ravasi, Leonardo Sandri, Ennio Antonelli, Jean-Louis Tauran, Christoph Schönborn and Marc Quellet.
In 1880, M. J. O’Brien, a Catholic priest, published in Dublin a book providing a “historical and critical account” of St. Malachy’s prophecies.
O’Brien believed Malachy was declaring that the reign of the pope identified as Petrus Romanus would culminate with the end of the world and the return of Jesus Christ.
O’Brien describes Malachy’s vision occurring while the saint was in Rome for a month, visiting and praying at the Eternal City’s many historical and holy sites.
The sight of the ruins of Pagan Rome, the tombs of the Apostles, the thought of so many thousands of martyrs, the presence of [Pope] Innocent II, who had been obligated to wander so many years in France and elsewhere on account of the anti-pope Anaclete – all this, I say, filled the mind of St. Malachy with deep and sad reflections and he was forced to cry out in the words of the old prophets: “Usquequo, Domine non misereberis Sion?” – “How long, O Lord! wilt Thou not have mercy on Sion?”
And God answered: “Until the end of the world the Church will be both militant and triumphant. Until the end of time the sufferings of my passion and the mysteries of my cross must be continued on earth, and I shall be with you until the end of the world.” And then was unfolded before the gaze of the holy bishop of Armagh the long line of illustrious pilots who were to guide the storm-tossed bark of Peter until the end.
Malachy gave his manuscript to Innocent II, who was pontiff from 1130 to 1143. The document was placed in the Vatican archives, where it remained unknown until its discovery in 1590.
Through the past 900 years, various critics have questioned the authenticity and the accuracy of St. Malachy’s prophecies, often arguing the methods used by some of his interpreters to apply his epithets to certain popes have been tortuous.
Horn told WND he and Putnam took a critical view of “The Prophecy of the Popes” and determined that the first part of it, the first 70 or so predictions, probably was altered in the late 16th century.
“It appears that somebody had altered the original medieval document from 1590 backward to promote a particular cardinal to the College of Cardinals to be the fulfillment of what at that time was still a secret list of popes,” Horn explained.
An advocate for Cardinal Girolamo Simoncelli, Horn said, likely “tinkered with the document to make it look like it was pointing toward Simoncelli.”
In “Petrus Romanus,” Horn said, he and Putnam “disregard everything pre-1595, as partly or fully tainted.”
After 1595, however, “The Prophecy of the Popes” was open to public scrutiny.
A modern version of Malachy’s prophecies was published in 1969 by Archbishop H. E. Cardinale, the Apostolic Nuncio to Belgium and Luxembourg.
Cardinale wrote “it is fair to say the vast majority of Malachy’s predictions about successive Popes is amazingly accurate – always remembering that he gives only a minimum of information.”
Horn noted Benedict’s brother, Georg Ratzinger, also a priest, suggested last year that the pontiff might retire at age 85, arguing Catholic law would allow for him to step down if his health wouldn’t allow him to continue.
Benedict, himself, made a case for papal resignation in a book-length interview, “Light of the World.”
Asked if he thought it appropriate for a pope to retire, he said, “If a pope clearly realizes that he is no longer physically, psychologically and spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office, then he has a right and, under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign.”