After John Paul II Are We Facing the Possibility of An Antipope? (From the Mailbag)
Dangerous business it is for prophets to foresee the coming of an evil "anti-pope." Can it happen? Certainly. It has happened. Through the centuries, especially when dukes and other aristocrats were the ones who chose the pontiff, Catholicism has been saddled on occasion with outright disasters. There were popes who were accused of adultery and even sexual assault. One, it was claimed (in the 10th century), toasted to the devil, or at least the pagan deities.
So, yes, there is such a thing as an anti-pope. With John Paul II's health in question, and the Church uneasy about its future, there is currency to certain predictions that the next Pope will be a spiritually dark figure who will lead the flock astray. Many are those who point to an alleged apparition hinting that there would be only two more popes after Paul VI (meaning that John Paul II is the last legitimate one, or the last before some apocalyptic event). Others adhere to a reputed prophecy from St. Malachy -- who they claim once listed 112 popes and indicated that there would be two more after John Paul II.
Obviously, both prophecies cannot be correct. The question is whether either is accurate. Notes the Catholic Encyclopedia: "The most famous and best known prophecies about the popes are those attributed to St. Malachy. In 1139 he went to Rome to give an account of the affairs of his diocese to the pope, Innocent II, who promised him two palliums for the metropolitan Sees of Armagh and Cashel. While at Rome, according to the Abbe Cucherat, he received the strange vision of the future wherein was unfolded before his mind the long list of illustrious pontiffs who were to rule the Church until the end of time. The same author tells us the St. Malachy gave his manuscript to Innocent II to console him in the midst of his tribulations, and the document remained unknown in the Roman Archives until its discovery in 1590 (Cucherat, "Proph. de la succession des papes" ).
"They were first published by Arnold de Wyon, and ever since there has been much discussion as to whether they are genuine predictions of St. Malachy or forgeries. The silence of 400 years on the part of so many learned authors who had written about the popes, and the silence of St. Bernard especially, who wrote The Life Of St. Malachy, is strong argument against their authenticity, but it is not conclusive if we adopt Cucherat's theory that they were hidden in the Archives during those 400 years."
According to St Malachy's list, Pope John Paul II is the third to last pope. He is referred to as "ab Labore solis" -- from the labor of the sun. Therefore, the remaining popes are: Gloria olivae (second to last pope) and Petrus romanus (Peter the Roman, the last).
"I watched EWTN Thursday evening to hear the pope read the Gospel readings in what some say could be a farewell speech," writes one viewer. "He read John 10-11 instead of Luke 11-47, which was the Gospel for the day according to my Word Among Us daily Mass reading book which is always accurate. John 10-11 says... "I am the good Shepard. A good Shepard lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a Shepard and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them.... Why would he change it if indeed he did and could it mean I am the good Pope but following me is the bad pope with which you the Christian sheep will be scattered?"
Of course, in the past several weeks, John Paul II has famously moved to prevent just this from happening, choosing new cardinals who will vote in the next papal election. A good number of them share his orthodox viewpoint. Careful we must be in prejudging the next election, and in expecting a false or bad pope. That can be very unfair. The cardinals have free will and God will allow them to use that free will when the time comes to pick a new pontiff -- while meanwhile we can spend time praying for the right decision and appreciating the incredible Pope we now have. We do believe that when John Paul II goes, a great storm will break upon mankind. We believe the Pope's greatest mission has been preparing us for that. And he has done all that is humanly possible. Is he in charge? Yes. He may be physically disabled, but those who visit with him say that he is aware of what is going on around him, and has kept his sense of humor. When asked recently by a visiting cardinal how he felt, John Paul II replied: "I don't know yet. I haven't read the newspaper today."
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