As April 16th looms, speculation is mounting concerning the possible post-birthday retirement of Pope Benedict XVI. These speculations are fueled by statements last year from Italian media personality journalist and Vatican insider, Antonio Socci, who wrote in The Times of London, “In short: the Pope does not discard the possibility of resigning when he reaches 85 in April next year.”[i][i]
Benedict was 78 when appointed pope in April of 2005 and was quoted then as having preferred a peaceful retirement, “At a certain point, I prayed to God ‘please don’t do this to me’…Evidently, this time He didn’t listen to me.”[ii][ii] Even more, in his book, Pope Benedict XVI Light of the World, when asked if he thought it appropriate for a pope to retire he responded, “If a pope clearly realizes that he is no longer physically, psychologically and spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office, then he has a right and, under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign.”[iii][iii] This widely reported predisposition adds credence to recent rumors.
While official sources assert his recent trip to Cuba as evidence of his ongoing vitality, a December 2011 Associated Press story from Vatican City asserted, “Pope Benedict XVI seems worn out.”
The internet and Bible prophecy community have been buzzing due to an ancient prophecy attributed to Saint Malachy which predicted some 112 popes culminating in the destruction of Rome, Benedict being next to last. Adding fuel to the fire are assertions from a soon to be released book titled after the predicted last pope concerning a cryptic cipher published by a Belgian Jesuit back in 1951.
Bestselling author, Thomas Horn (Apollyon Rising, Forbidden Gates), has teamed up with a Christian apologist and author Cris Putnam (Pandemonium’s Engine) in the soon to be released book, Petrus Romanus, which explores the intricacies of the Malachy prophecy and the potential role of the pope in biblical prophecy. According to the blog promoting the soon to be released book, the deceased Jesuit priest and codebreaker, René Thibaut, decoded 2012 explicitly as the year for the final conclave. According to calculations at Putnam’s website the date coincides with the recent rumors.
While some Catholic scholars are divided on the Prophecy of the Popes, John Lupia Ph.D. at Roman Catholic News has deemed it genuine. Loyal Catholics are likely incredulous due to Rome’s predicted doom during the next pontificate. This foretold apocalyptic demise has Protestants like Hal Lindsey and Jack Van Impe speculating that the “rapture” of the church — a time when true believers will be caught away into the heavens and saved from great tribulation — will occur very soon. For believers in the rapture, this seems all the more exhilarating amidst the numerous 2012 predictions.
Other Protestants see a remarkable potential that the predicted final pope may personify the false prophet predicted in the Book of Revelation in chapter 13 verses 11 onward. That end-time figure is said to appear as a lamb, a Christian, yet speak like a dragon pointing to the same book’s symbol for Satan. Prophetic commentators have been quick to point out recent Vatican statements calling for an increased role for the United Nations and a world financial authority. While many Catholic faithful are incensed by the insinuation that the next pontiff is the predicted second beast, it is not without precedent. In addition to respected Catholic seers down through time who predicted Rome would become the seat of the Antichrist, Pope Benedict himself, while still a Cardinal, shocked the Catholic community when he confessed that he did not think the Holy Spirit was necessarily involved in the conclave that elects popes. When asked on Bavarian television in 1997 if the Holy Spirit is responsible for who gets elected pope, Cardinal Ratzinger responded, “I would not say so, in the sense that the Holy Spirit picks out the pope. … There are too many contrary instances of popes the Holy Spirit would obviously not have picked.”[iv][iv]
Cardinal Ratzinger’s startling admission seems at odds with the traditional dogma of papal succession all the way back to Jesus’ disciple Peter and inadvertently lends credence to the election of a false prophet.
The Vatican has done little to silence the building buzz concerning the next pope and Malachy prophecy. Ratzinger also created a stir when he chose the name “Benedict” seeming to intentionally fulfill the Malachy prophecy’s characterization of him as the “glory of the Olive” (the Benedictine order is symbolized by an Olive branch). With the recent rumors concerning the pope’s soon retirement, this begs the question of whether the Vatican is intentionally fulfilling the Malachy predictions and setting the stage for the coming of Petrus Romanus.