Pope Benedict XVI’s announcement yesterday that he plans to retire at the end of the month came as a shock to many. After all, he will only be the second pope in history not to die in office. The first and only other pope to resign was the 13th Century pope Celestine V, who changed the rules to allow himself to step down.
Benedict XVI has cited old age and ailing physical strength as his reasons, but the unusual nature of the announcement has inevitably led some to suggest that there is more to this than meets the eye. Conspiracy theories range from the prosaic to the truly outlandish. Some suggest that his health is simply worse than has been disclosed. Perhaps he is dying; perhaps he would like to play a role in choosing a successor, perhaps he just wants a short period of rest before his death. The vatican has denied that theological uncertainties played any factor, but this has not stopped some to speculate that a troubled papacy hit by child sexual abuse scandals has left Benedict XVI disillusioned and perhaps even suffering from a crisis of faith. Some have suggested that the resignation may be motivated by a wish to leave the public eye so that he can avoid becoming embroiled in scandals related his Nazi past (he has admitted to being forced to join in Hiter Youth) or his personal involvement in sexual abuse cover-ups.
But by far the most interesting conspiracy theory which has been raised in connection with Benedict’s resignation is the idea of the ‘Last Pope’
Benedict XVI – The Last Pope?
In the 12th century the first Irish saint, Saint Malachy, write a series of 112 mystical stanzas – each of which provices a poetic description of the attributes of each pope. These mystical verses reach right up until the present day, and Benedict XVI is the 111th – the second to last pope and the last true and legitimate pope of all time. According to Saint Malachy Pope Benedict XVI will be succeeded by what some have described as an image of Satan – a man who will preside over the destruction of the church.
Interesting parallels have been drawn between may of Saint Malachy’s verses and the real life pope’s which they referred to. Benedict XVI, for example, who rose through the ranks of the Benedictine Order, whose cresent contains Olive Branches, is described as the “Glory of the Olive” by Malachy.
The last pope, according to Malachy, will be “Peter the Roman”. His pontificate will end with the destruction of Rome, and he will have no successor.
“In the extreme persecution of the Holy Roman Church, there will sit [i.e., as bishop].
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 terrible judge will judge his people.
The End.” – Saint Malachy
Adding to the intrigue, a book published about this subject called Petrus Romanus: The Final Pope Is Here by Tom Horn and Cris Putnam predicted Benedict’s Resignation last spring. This book details the theory that the next pope – the last pope – will lead the world’s religious communities into following a political leader who will turn out to be the Anti-Christ.
Of course there are many more reasons to think that this is a load of bunkem that there are reasons to believe it; but it is still interesting, nevertheless.