Pope Benedict XVI's announcement of his resignation has been greeted with shock from many Catholics. And as the church's cardinals prepare to elect a new pontiff, NBC and the Daily Mail report that an old doomsday prophecy is making the rounds among some theologians — one that predicts the downfall of the Vatican and possibly the world.
'Prophecy of the Popes'
Saint Malachy is an Irish saint who lived between 1094 and 1148 and served as the archbishop of Armagh. He is perhaps best known for supposedly penning an apocalyptic series of 112 phrases, which he claimed came to him in a vision and predicted the series of popes who would reign over the church and eventually preside over its downfall. The so-called "Prophecy of the Popes" has been pointed to by numerous doomsayers over the years in predicting catastrophe for the church.
Roughly translated from its original Latin, the Prophecy reads: "In the extreme 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 [i.e. Rome] will be destroyed, and the terrible judge will judge his people. The End."
Peter the Roman
If "Peter the Roman" is to oversee the end of times, who is Peter the Roman? According to some, he could be one of the leading candidates to become pope. Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson is a member of the Catholic administrative body, the Roman Curia, and could therefore be loosely described as Peter the Roman.
'Prophecy' may be forgery
Among the many problems with the Malachy's supposed prophecy is that he may have never written it at all. According numerous sources including the New Advent's Catholic Encyclopedia, there was no mention of Malachy's writings for more than 400 years from the time it was said to have been written and 1590 when Benedictine monk Arnold de Wyon published the "Prophecy of Popes." The silence about the writings from even Malachy's closest friends has led many scholars to conclude that the writings are forgeries, likely written by Wyon himself, and the Catholic Church has never embraced the writings as official doctrine.
Video: Watch an interview with the authors of a book on the 'Prophecy of Popes'