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The Prophecies of Saint Malachy


The death of John Paul II, who was pope during all my adult life, brought about a lot of speculation about the future of the Church of Rome. Bobbing around the conversation is an old list of Latin one-liners written by a twelfth-century monk named Malachy.

Malachy was from Eire, a Christian monastic center in his day. He visited Rome in 1139, and while there he had a vision of the future bishops of Rome. He wrote down this vision as a series of Latin titles describing each Pope, from Celestine II (1130) to the end of the present age. He gave the list to the Pope of that time and returned home. The list gathered dust in the archives of the Roman Church until it was rediscovered in 1590.

Naturally authenticity of this list is in dispute.

The End of the List

Rather than list the whole series of Latin one-liners (there are Catholic Web sites that do that: here's one), I will list the last six, which cover my own lifetime.

John XXIII (1958-63)

pastor et nauta (shepherd and sailor)

Prior to election he was bishop of the maritime city of Venice.

Paul VI (1963-78)

flos florum (flower of flowers)

His coat of arms was a trio of lilies.

John Paul I (1978)

de medietate lunae (of the half of the moon)

He reigned from one half-moon to the next, living only one month.

John Paul II (1978-2005)

de labore soli (of the labor of the sun)

He was born during a solar eclipse and was laid to rest during another.

Benedict XVI (from 2005)

de gloria olivae (of the glory of the olive)

He chose his name from the Benedictine Order, aka the Olivetan Monks.

Final Pope (future)

Petrus Romanus (Peter the Roman)

"During persecution extreme in the Holy Roman Church will be seated Peter the Roman, who will care for the sheep through many afflictions, at the consummation of which the City of Seven Hills will be destroyed and a formidable Judge will judge his people."


Well, the prophecies sound a lot better than what I overheard from a college student, who seems to think that Benedict XVI will make the nations of Europe start a world war. Let me get this straight: The head of a church that has little or no influence over the social democratic governments of Europe (or of the European Union) is going to compel them somehow to fight any kind of war, let alone a global one? C'mon!! It's more likely the student misheard something about Benedict XV, who was pope during the first world war.

A prophet teaches people about the will of God and how we should follow it. All that stuff about future events are what happens when we don't follow God's will: It is usually nasty, because when we ignore or defy God (as people usually do) the predictions tend to be self-fulfilling. Malachy didn't do any teaching or admonishing; he just wrote a list of papal attributes. For that reason Malachy is no prophet of God, even if his predictions come true.

Besides Roman Catholics do not like the idea of Peter the Roman immediately succeeding Benedict XVI because:

So the Catholic Web pages that mention this prophecy say that there may be more popes between Benedict XVI and the final Pope. This is wishful thinking on their part. Even if there were no Malachian prophecies, the world is becoming nastier and more unstable, more and more like a storm-tossed sea. It is such that even the USA cannot hold the chaos back, no matter how much it exerts its will. It is such that the world will long for peace and security.

Someone will, for a short time, give peace and security to the world … and right there with him will be Peter the Roman.

Written by Andy West on 19 April 2005; last updated 5 June 2005.