Spirit Daily


St. Malachy's Alleged Prophecy: Did He Predict The Last Sequence Of Popes?

By Michael H. Brown

Occasionally we're asked about prophecies that have to do with the next pope or the next sequence of popes. Our advice is to be careful characterizing the successor to John Paul II: the cardinals have free will, and that free will determine who serves next. Those who preordain the next pope as an "anti-pope" must be careful that we are not besmirching a good and possibly even great pontiff; this can be very dangerous. As for prophecy, the most famous was that of St. Malachy O'Morgair, the 12-century archbishop of Armagh, Ireland. Tradition has it that when he visited Rome in 1139, Malachy was granted a vision of all the popes of the future, each of whom he described in symbolic Latin. He was said to have given this list to Pope Innocent II, and little more was heard until 1590, when a Benedictine monk, Dom Arnold de Wyon, ignited controversy after discovering the list in the Vatican archives. 

Those who believe in this prophecy (and there is controversy over the authenticity of such a list to start with) argue that the Latin utterances fit all the popes since 1590. For example, according to a book called Prophecy For Today, St. Malachy's list described a pope later identified as Leo XIII with the words lumen in caelo (light in the heavens), and in fact that pope's coat of arms included a shooting star. Benedict XV was supposedly religio depopulata -- "religion devastated" (he served during World War I); John XXIII, who had served in the port city of Venice, was pastor et nauta ("shepherd and sailor"); and Paul VI was flos florum, or flower of flowers, and his coat of arms indeed displayed the fleur-de-lis (a pattern of flowers). Pope John Paul I was depicted as de medietate lunae, which means "from half of the moon -- and the first two letters of his family name, Luciani, form half of the word "luna," while the current pope, John Paul II was de labore solis, from the labor of the sun (with no clear explanation, although perhaps there is a connection in that he was born the year of an eclipse, and also: his working devotion to the "woman clothed with the sun"). 

That leaves two popes on St. Malachy's alleged list. One was described as De gloria olivae (from the glory of the olive) and the last as Petrus Romanus (Peter the Roman). It is Peter the Roman who is said to reign during tribulations that will include the destruction of Rome.

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