Catholicism, with a long history shrouded in myth and mystery, has oft lent itself to tales of Doomsday and Apocalypse (remember, the original end-of-the-worlders were not deciphering the Mayan calender, but the book of revelations). So it comes as no surprise that the lineage of the popes too is tied to a prophecy that dictates their end will be our end as well.
Meet Saint Malachy:
While at Rome, he received (according to the Abbé Cucherat) 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 that St. Malachy gave his manuscript to Innocent II to console him in the midst of his tribulations, and that the document remained unknown in the Roman Archives until its discovery in 1590
These short prophetical announcements, in number 112, indicate some noticeable trait of all future popes from Celestine II, who was elected in the year 1130, until the end of the world. They are enunciated under mystical titles. Those who have undertaken to interpret and explain these symbolical prophecies have succeeded in discovering some trait, allusion, point, or similitude in their application to the individual popes, either as to their country, their name, their coat of arms or insignia, their birth-place, their talent or learning, the title of their cardinalate, the dignities which they held etc.
A Nostradamus of the Holy See, as it were. And it seems as if many believe that the soon-to-abdicate Pope Benedict is number #111. The commentary written for the pope of this enumeration was merely "Gloria olivæ":
The Benedictine order traditionally said this Pope would come from their order, since a branch of the Benedictine order is called the Olivetans. St Benedict is said to have prophesied that before the end of the world, a member of his order would be Pope and would triumphantly lead the Church in its fight against evil.
So while our once-Cardinal Ratzinger choose the name "Benedict"upon ascending to the throne, he was not a true Benedictine, which may or may not make the prophecy moot. But seeing 867 years into the future is a dicey thing at best, and one may forgive Malachy his possible confusion.
And what of the pope following Benedict, our "Gloria olivæ"? Malachy wrote, what was for him, at length:
In persecutione extrema S.R.E. sedebit Petrus Romanus, qui pascet oves in multis tribulationibus: quibus transactis civitas septicollis diruetur, & Judex tremêdus judicabit populum suum. Finis.
(In extreme persecution, the seat of the Holy Roman Church will be occupied by Peter the Roman, who will feed the sheep through many tribulations, at the term of which the city of seven hills will be destroyed, and the formidable Judge will judge his people. The End.)
Who can say? But with the uneventful passing of 2012 into 2013 without global cataclysm, we need something to worry about, right? I mean, besides global economic collapse, nuclear war, creeping socialism, and the nagging concern that everything is seemingly falling apart all around us....
Choose wisely, Cardinals...
UPDATE: The signs keep coming...shortly after Pope Benedict's resignation, we get this:
Hours after Pope Benedict XVI jolted the Catholic world with the announcement of his resignation, the Boss Upstairs unleashed a shocker of his own — opening the heavens and hurling a bolt straight at St. Peter’s Basilica yesterday.
In what many saw as a sign from the Almighty, lightning struck the rod atop the dome of the more than 500-year-old basilica, one of the Catholic Church’s holiest sites, during a storm yesterday...